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Columbia River salmon forecast lacks the big numbers of recent years

SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017, 5:30 A.M.

David Moershel of Spokane holds a fall chinook he caught while angling with salmon fishing guide Dave Grove on the Columbia River on Sept. 8, 2014. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
David Moershel of Spokane holds a fall chinook he caught while angling with salmon fishing guide Dave Grove on the Columbia River on Sept. 8, 2014. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

A reasonably good run of fall chinook salmon is expected to return to the Columbia River this year, with the exception of the “upriver brights” including those bound for the Hanford Reach.

Roughly 582,600 fall chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia River, which is similar to last year’s actual return.

While that’s significantly lower than the record 1.3 million fish that returned in 2015, this year’s forecast is considered a fairly good run of fall chinook, said Kyle Adicks, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon fisheries policy lead.

Approximately 260,000 “upriver brights” are headed for areas of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam. The forecast for these fall chinook is the lowest since 2009.

Forecasts developed by the department and treaty tribes for chinook, coho, sockeye, chum and pink salmon in Washington river and ocean waters were released last week.

The forecasts are the starting point for developing 2017 salmon-fishing seasons in the Columbia River, the Puget Sound and Washington coastal areas. Public meetings are planned before fishing seasons are adopted in April.

Unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water or flooding in rivers, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington waters, especially when compared with some of the more abundant returns of recent years, Adicks said.

“Some salmon runs are expected to return in higher numbers over last year, when we forecast historic low numbers for several stocks,” Adicks said. “But, for the most part, forecasts are at about average or lower than average, which means we will once again need to limit fisheries in some areas to protect weak returns of wild fish.”

Roughly 386,000 Columbia River coho are projected to return this year, which is similar to last year’s forecast.

Only 223,000 coho actually returned last year to the Columbia River, where some coho stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Approximately 250,000 hatchery chinook are expected to return this year to the lower Columbia River – nearly 124,000 more fish than actually returned last year. Those salmon, known as “tules,” are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

For the most part, tules are doing well considering recent unfavorable ocean conditions, Adicks said.

The news is less encouraging elsewhere in the state.

Coho returns to several Puget Sound-area rivers, including the Skagit, are projected to be extremely low. Some chinook fisheries in Puget Sound will be limited because of low returns of wild chinook to rivers.

Columbia River fisheries will be discussed at a public meeting in Kennewick on March 30 from 6-8 p.m. The location has been changed to the Kennewick Irrigation District office, 2015 S. Ely St.

Disabled hunters apply for access permits

HUNTING – April 13 is the deadline to apply for one of 25 family access permits for hunters with disabilities to access otherwise gated areas on Inland Empire Paper Company lands.

Permits will be distributed in a lottery drawing.

Applications are available through the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, (509) 328-6429, or on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website, wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility.



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