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Huge daily counts of summer chinook running over Bonneville Dam

FISHING — How big was the 3,994 adult summer chinook count at Bonneville Dam on Tuesday?

 "It was the largest count for the date since at least 1939," says Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon expert in Vancouver.

"The previous record was 1,434 fish on July 14, 1953.

Most of those fish are bound for the Upper Columbia River.

The Columbia River summer chinook return is on an overall pace to be the largest since 1960.

Some of these fish also are branching off toward Idaho.

Sockeye, chinook runs looking huge on eve of salmon opener

FISHING — The salmon are charging upstream in near-record numbers for the Wednesday, July 1, season openers on the upper Columbia River.  

Here's the latest update on the chinook and sockeye runs from Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon specialist:


  • Adult summer Chinook passage at Bonneville Dam during June 16-29 totals 53,197 fish.
  • It’s the 2nd largest total to-date (record is 70,920 adults in 1957).
  • Passage is typically 50% complete by June 29.
  • The preseason forecast was for a Columbia River return of 73,000 adults.
  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) began weekly stock status reviews for the summer season on Monday June 29. TAC upgraded the summer Chinook forecast return to 85,000  adults.
  • If the upgraded TAC forecast is correct, this year’s summer Chinook return would be the second largest on record since at least 1980 (record is 89,500 adults in 2002). 


  • Sockeye passage at Bonneville Dam through June 29 totals 339,816 fish.
  • It’s also the 2nd largest total count to-date (record is 364,849 fish in 2012).
  • Passage is typically 50% complete by June 25.
  • The preseason forecast was for a Columbia River return of 394,000 adults.
  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) began weekly stock status reviews for the summer season on Monday June 29. TAC upgraded the sockeye return to 450,000 adults.
  • If the upgraded TAC forecast is correct, it would be the 3rd largest return to the mouth of the Columbia since at least 1938 (record was set just last year with 645,140 fish).


Water temperatures at Bonneville Dam

  • Water temperature at Bonneville Dam was nearly 71 degrees yesterday.
  • It’s the hottest temperature to-date since at least 1950.
  • The recent 10-year average on June 28  is 63 degrees.  

First spring chinook of season heads up Columbia River

FISHING —  The first spring chinook of 2015 was recorded passing over Bonneville Dam on Sunday, Feb. 8.

We're a few months away from "Game on!"  but this is a wake up call for Columbia River anglers.

Much more surprising was last week's passage of a chrome-bright sockeye salmon.

A counter at Bonneville reported the 20-inch-long sockeye came through the dam at 6:30 p.m. on Feb 3.

Sockeye normally do not arrive until May and peak in June.

This is either the third or fourth year in a row an early-bird sockeye has been noted at Bonneville. A record-breaking run of sockeye was recorded in the Columbia last year.

Coho adding a new look to coolers of Idaho anglers

FISHING — Yes, I know that some of the coho Idaho anglers are catching hundreds of miles from the ocean in the Clearwater River are dark and off their prime.

But some of the salmon are bright and very good for eating, and opportunity not to miss in this year of record coho returns. 

The photo above shows a nice coho that stands out in a crowd of steelhead on Rick Itami's boat.  It's a sight popping up in coolers along the river since the state's first dedicated coho fishing season opened Oct. 17.

Here's Itami's report:

Thanks to funding from BPA, the Nez Perce Tribe has re-established a coho run in the Clearwater River to the point that this year for the first time, the IDF&G opened a sports fishing season that allows 2 fish per day and 6 in possession.  To top it off, you can keep wild or hatchery fish.  I didn't bother to target coho because the counts over Lower Granite never got above a few hundred per day which seemingly would not make it worthwhile to go after them.  But early this morning, I was trolling lighted lures for steelhead and was reeling in my line so that I could put away my trolling gear and try bobber fishing.  The fast-moving plug caught the attention of this beautiful female coho and she grabbed it just before I got it to the boat.  As you can see it is nice and bright and the flesh is deep red.  It's fillets are now headed to my new smoker along with the steelhead I caught.

See a report on an angler (who's also a fisheries biologist) who caught the first official state record coho in the new Clearwater season casting a spoon.

A record run (since 1938) of adult coho crossed Bonneville Dam and headed up the Columbia and Snake River systems this year and jacks are the 4th highest since at least 1980. 

  • Through Oct. 31, a total of 262,831 adult and 14,577 jack coho had been counted at Bonneville Dam. 
  • The previous record was 259,533 adults in 2001. 
  • The record for jacks is 22,204 fish in 1986. 

Coho were declared functionally extinct from the Snake River basin in the 1980s. But the run had tanked decades earlier. In 1995, the Nez Perce Tribe began an effort to re-establish the run using eggs and juveniles from surplus stock at hatcheries in the lower Columbia River basin.

The tribe’s fisheries division slowly increased the returns of the fish.

Here's more information from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

Over the past handful of years, enough adult coho returned from the ocean that the tribe was able to rely on them to spawn the next generation and did not need to supplement juvenile releases with the offspring of coho that returned to the lower Columbia. Tribal fisheries officials expected returns would improve once the transition was made to a localized brood stock. But they were not expecting the huge leap the run made this fall.

During the previous five years, an average of 3,145 coho returned at least as far as Lower Granite Dam. This year more than 17,100 coho have been counted at the dam.

Salmon ID chart helps Clearwater anglers identify catch

FISHING — Idaho's first specific coho fishing season opens today on the Clearwater River.

You can keep coho regardless of whether their adipose fins are clipped or unclipped in the mainstem or designated sections of the Middle Fork and North Fork below Dworshak Dam.

But since fall chinook is closed to harvest and unmarked steelhead must be released, anglers must be clear on identifying coho.

This chart should help.

Hanford Reach chinook not biting, yet

FISHING — Patience.

A record run of fall chinook is headed to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam.

But they ain't there yet, according to this creek report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist in the Tri-Cities.

An estimated 212 boats fished for salmon in the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 and Priest Rapids Dam) this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed 14 boats (25 anglers:100 pole hours) fishing for salmon with no catch. Staff also interviewed 8 bank anglers at Ringold with no catch.

Above are the latest graphs showing fish moving over Bonneville Dam, the first dam the fish encounter up the Columbia from the ocean, as well as McNary Dam, the last dam the salmon negotiate before heading either toward the Snake or up the Columbia into the Hanford Reach.

Fall chinook season to open early in Priest Rapids pool

FISHING — This announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is good news if you're champing at the bit to cast for the early portion of the record run of fall chinook heading up the Columbia River.

Action: Fall chinook season opens two days early to coincide with Labor Day weekend. 

Effective date:  Aug 30, 2014 (one hour before official sunrise).

Species affected:  Chinook salmon

Location:  Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam

General Rules: Daily limit six (6) chinook only; up to two adults may be retained. All other rules for Columbia River apply, including barbless hooks. Two poles allowed through Aug 31, 2014.

Reason for action: The standard opening date for fall chinook in the Priest Rapids Pool is September 1. With Labor Day weekend falling on August 30, 2014, opening two days early will allow for additional angling opportunity.

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license  Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River spring chinook fisheries.  The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.

Monitor fishing rule changes on the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or the WDFW webpage.

Limit upped to 2 chinook at Westport

FISHING — Starting Monday, Aug. 18, anglers fishing in ocean waters off Westport can keep up to two chinook salmon as part of their two-salmon daily limit, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

With that change, anglers will be allowed to keep two chinook per day in ocean waters off Westport (Marine Area 2), La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4).

Those fishing Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will continue to be limited to one chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.

All ocean areas are open to salmon fishing seven days per week. Wild coho must be released in all four areas.

Ron Warren, WDFW fisheries policy lead, said the previous daily limit of one chinook off Westport was designed to ensure the fishery would remain open the entire season.

“We’ve kept a close eye on the pace of catch in the area,” Warren said. “With sufficient quota remaining, we want to maximize the recreational fishing opportunity through the rest of the season.”

Ocean salmon fisheries are scheduled to continue through Sept. 30 in marine areas 1 and 2 and through Sept. 21 in marine areas 3 and 4. However, a portion of Marine Area 3 will reopen Sept. 27 through Oct. 12.

Fishery managers will continue to monitor the ocean salmon fishery throughout the season and will announce any other changes on WDFW’s website.

Additional information on the ocean fishery, including minimum size limits and catch guidelines, is available in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

Return tags in salmon, steelhead for $25

FISHING — Area fishermen can get a $25 bonus if they catch a fish with a radio telemetry tag in the Snake, Columbia or Willamette Rivers.

Just return the tag to University of Idaho researchers and the check's in the mail.

The tagged fish are part of an ongoing effort to boost stocks of steelhead trout, chinook salmon and Pacific lamprey.  The small tags monitor fish behavior and distribution.

The tags range in size from about three inches to smaller than a dime and can be detected by the presence of a wire from the fish's mouth or body. All but the smallest bear a UI label to assist in identification.

"The best way for anglers to return transmitters for cash reward is through our website" said Chris Caudill, leader of the project. "There is a pdf form to fill out and then return to UI. The return of transmitters to UI by anglers, hatcheries, agency personnel and others provides critical data on the final fate and location of the radio-tagged fish."

UI researchers say the return of the transmitters is essential to supporting the goals of the project, which include:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of fish ladders designed and built specifically for Pacific lamprey, an important native fish species. These lamprey passage systems were designed in collaboration with NOAA-Fisheries, the US Army Corps of Engineers and UI College of Natural Resources graduate students. They were installed at Bonneville and John Day dams on the Columbia River. This study aims to increase successful lamprey migrations through passageways at hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. If successful, dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers may install fish ladders in the new design, which may increase Pacific lamprey that are important to the heritage and culture of the region's indigenous Indian tribes.
  • Radio-tagging and monitoring adult salmon and steelhead at lower Columbia and Snake River dams. Data gathered through radio telemetry will help scientists determine how modification to dams affects passage and fates of the adult fish throughout the Federal Columbia River Power System.
  • Radio-tagging and monitoring Chinook salmon and steelhead to determine migration patterns and pre-spawn mortality rates in the Willamette River Valley and its numerous tributaries with dams. Currently, many adult salmon reach spawning grounds, but die prior to reproducing for unknown reasons, potentially limiting productivity. The salmon and steelhead studies will contribute to regional salmon recovery efforts currently underway by regional, federal, state and tribal agencies.

This project is supported by a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and additional participants include: the UI Echohydraulics Research Laboratory in Boise, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon State University's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Salmon fishing season opens on upper Columbia today

FISHING — Today is the first day of fishing for the good run of chinook and the forecast giant run of sockeye salmon headed to the upper reaches of the Columbia River.

Chinook, unmolested by fishing lures, have been swimming over Priest Rapids Dam at a rate of 2,000 a day. Sockeye are getting their legs.

Where are you?

Hanford Reach salmon effort thins, catch stays high

FISHING — Chinook salmon anglers are finding a little more elbow room on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River and anglers numbers declinced slightly last week, but the catch rates on the 2013 record run remain high.

Here's the report just received from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife area fisheries biologist:

The number of boats on the water in the Hanford Reach dropped a bit this past week compared to the two weeks prior.  There were an estimated 5,123 angler trips for the week.  Anglers averaged 2.2 Chinook per boat and 20 hours for each Chinook caught from the bank.

Staff interviewed anglers from 572 boats (1,309 boat anglers) and 227 bank anglers fishing for Chinook reporting a harvest of 1,221 adult Chinook and 102 jacks.  Harvest for the week was estimated at 4,357 adult Chinook and 357 Chinook jacks. 

For the season, 19,313 adult Chinook and 2,365 jacks have been harvested.  The adult harvest breaks the previous record of 13,102 adults harvested set last year.  There have been 33,081 angler trips for the fishery through October 13. The in-season run update for natural origin adult Hanford Reach fall Chinook returning to the Hanford Reach is 136,902 (updated Oct 7).

Yakima River fishing for chinooks hasn't been bad, either.  Says Hoffarth:

WDFW staff interviewed 185 anglers between October 7th and 13th.  Anglers reported harvesting 86 adult Chinook, 14 jacks, and 7 coho.  An estimated 662 adult fall Chinook, 148 jacks, and 76 coho were harvested this past week from 1,657 angler trips.  Anglers averaged 1 salmon for every 4.4 hours fished.

For the season, 5,942 anglers trips have been taken and 995 adult Chinook, 313 chinook jacks, and 83 coho have been harvested.

Hanford Reach anglers catch record number of fall chinook

SALMON FISHING — The 2013 record run of chinook salmon that's stampeding up the Columbia River is making history, and so are anglers.

Sport fishermen caught a record number of chinook in the lower Columbia when the run was peaking there.

Now Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife creel surveys have confirmed that anglers alrealdy have set a record for the catch in the Hanford Reach, where they averaged a whopping 2.5 kings per boat last week.

And the season doesn't close until Oct. 22 in that stretch of river.

Here's the report just received from Paul Hoffarth, WDFW fisheries biologist in the Tri Cities.

Angler effort remained strong this past week with an estimated 7,714 angler trips for the week.  Anglers averaged 2.5 Chinook per boat.

Staff interviewed anglers from 477 boats (1,191 boat anglers) and 382 bank anglers fishing for Chinook reporting a harvest of 1,099 adult Chinook and 107 jacks.  Harvest for the week was estimated at 6,531 adult Chinook and 651 Chinook jacks. 

For the season, 14,967 adult Chinook and 2,014 jacks have been harvested.  The adult harvest breaks the previous record of 13,102 adults harvested set last year.  There have been 27,958 angler trips for the fishery through October 6.

The in-season run update for natural origin adult Hanford Reach fall Chinook returning to the Hanford Reach is 181,137 (updated Oct 1).

Landers verifies Columbia River’s record run of chinook salmon

FISHING — Four people, including me, reeled 13 chinook salmon to the boat today in the Hanford Reach and got eight of them INTO the boat.

That's a good indication that the record run of chinook salmon heading up the Columbia and Snake Rivers is the real deal.

We were fishing with Toby Wyatt and Jim Havener of Reel Time Fishing on Wyatt's 27-foot boat, which he built with his dad in Clarkston.

Gone fishing

SALMON FISHING — I've headed to the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River to see first hand what this record run of chinook salmon is all about.

Photo above shows a 50-pounder I landed there a few years ago.

Think big!

Stay tuned.

Good news, bad news for Snake fish runs, biologist says

FISHING — Some anglers are catching 10 chinook salmon a day in the Lewiston area this week in the best chinook salmon fishing season fish managers can remember.   Steelheading for keepers is so-so.

The chinook salmon returns to the Snake River this fall are huge, but the steelhead returns — notably for hatchery steelhead — are sub-par.

The exception is a near-record post-dams return of small wild steelhead, according to Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

Click "continue reading" for a detailed analysis of the two fisheries DuPont has just posted.

Ocean chinook quotas likely lower than 2012

FISHING — Anglers fishing along the Washington coast will likely see a lower catch quota for chinook salmon this year, while the quota for coho is expected to be similar to last season, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Monday night.

Three options for ocean salmon fisheries approved today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) anticipate a lower abundance of lower Columbia River hatchery chinook in the ocean, but an increase in Columbia River hatchery coho. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Read on for details about the three options for  2013 salmon fisheries package the council will consider in April.

Video: Salmon angler loses battle with sea lion

FISHING — Sea lions on the lower Columbia River are learning to take advantage of rules requiring anglers to release wild chinook salmon.

The video above shows anglers netting a nice chinook. But as they readied to remove the hook and release the fish, a sea lion nearly pulled the man holding the net into the water. Eventually, the net snapped in pieces, and the sea lion swam away with the fish.

See the Portland TV news story.

Anglers set all-time record steelhead harvest on lower Columbia

FISHING — The estimated 9,800 hatchery summer steelhead kept on the lower Columbia River so far this month — through Aug. 22 — is an all time record not just for August but for any month since at least 1969, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just reported. 

The previous record of 8,549 steelhead was set last month. 

A good run along with river flows that are higher and cooler than normal appear to be favoring the anglers.

MEANTIME, about 30,000 steelhead have run up the Snake River and climbed over Lower Granite Dam. They're coming at the rate of about a thousand a day.  Anglers are enjoying good catches of steelhead in Idaho's Clearwater River.

And, as the graph above shows, the big numbers are yet to come.

Columbia River sockeye run likely fourth largest on record

SALMON FISHING — Better late than never – the 2011 sockeye salmon run pouring over Bonneville Dam and heading up the Columbia River likely be the fourth largest since records were started in 1980.

Most of the sockeye are headed for the Wenatchee and Okanagan river basins in central Washington and British Columbia, but around 2,000  are destined for a 900-mile swim up the Columbia and Snake  river systems to spawn in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho.

While this year’s forecast of 181,000 sockeyes is big, it pales to last year’s record run of 387,858.

Beginning yesterday, anglers can retain adult sockeye salmon in the mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam, including the Okanogan and Similkameen Rivers, and Lake Osoyoos.

Columbia River sockeye returns are surpassing expectations and fisheries managers say, "Game on!"

The daily limit is four sockeye with a minimum size of 12 inches. All coho and steelhead must be released.

Bonneville Dam counts have ranged from 3,329 on July 12 to 5,262 on July 8.

As of Wednesday, 173,500 fish had moved above Bonneville of the 181,000 expected.

Read on for a breakdown on the sockeye fisheries opening:

Snake River spring chinook fishing seasons start April 20

SALMON FISHING — Three sections of the Snake River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon starting April 20 with the stretch below Ice Harbor Dam, according to an announcement just released by the Washington  Department of Fish and Wildlife

Idaho's spring chinook season opens April 23.

Two other Washington sections of the Snake River – one near Little Goose Dam, the other near Clarkston – will open April 25.

Read on for more details and catch limits.