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Columbia fall chinook run upgraded to 3rd largest on record; other factoids

David Moershel of Spokane holds a fall chinook he caught while angling with Spokane salmon fishing guide Dave Grove of Captain Dave's Guide Service on the Columbia River on Sept. 8, 2014.
 (Rich Landers)
David Moershel of Spokane holds a fall chinook he caught while angling with Spokane salmon fishing guide Dave Grove of Captain Dave's Guide Service on the Columbia River on Sept. 8, 2014. (Rich Landers)

FISHING -- The huge fall chinook run into the Columbia River is even better than originally forecast, experts say.  No wonder fishing is picking up big-time upstream above McNary Dam and into the Hanford Reach.

Here's the latest update and factoids on this year's salmon runs from Joe Hymer, Washington Fish and Wildlife salmon specialist in Vancouver.

Fall Chinook

  • Passage at Bonneville Dam from August 1 through September 14 totals 562,383 adult fall Chinook, the 2nd largest total to-date on record (since at least 1938).  The record are the 648,461 fish counted during the same period in 2013.
  • The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has provided a Chinook run update of 1,095,900 fish to the Columbia River, which is greater than the preseason forecast of 925,300 Chinook. It would also be the 3rd largest return on record since at least 1938 (record are the 1,268,400 fish in 2013).
  • The in-season forecast includes 685,000 upriver bright (URB) and 139,500 Bonneville Pool Hatchery (BPH) tule fall Chinook (518,300 and 163,900 preseason, respectively). The URB run would be the 2nd largest on record since at least 1964 (record are the 778,300 fish in 2013). The BPH return would still be the largest since 2004. 
  • The management goal of 60,000 adult fall Chinook escaping past McNary Dam has been met for the 22nd year in a row. 
  • The Lower River Hatchery (LRH) stock preseason forecast to the Columbia River is 96,800 fish. Updating the run in-season is challenging since escapement is based on hatchery returns which are typically not complete until after the fall fishing season concludes. Based upon the current escapement to hatcheries and weirs, the run appears to be tracking at or above preseason projections.


  • The preseason forecast is for nearly 540,000 adult Coho to return to the Columbia River and includes a strong upriver component. The counting period at Bonneville Dam for the ‘early’ component continues through September 30. Counts are tracking behind expectations and currently total only 18,695 adults.
  • Preseason, Bonneville Dam total passage for early and late stock coho was expected to be 190,500 adults.

Summer run steelhead

  • Passage of upriver summer steelhead at Bonneville Dam since July 1 totals 215,589 fish and has been tracking behind expectations. TAC currently estimates a steelhead run of about 250,000 fish to Bonneville Dam which is less than the preseason forecast of 298,800.
  • TAC has not updated the Group B run size but noted the run is tracking less than expected. Additionally, TAC expects the Group A run to come in higher than the prior in-season update of 206,100 fish.

Recreational catches

  • At Buoy 10, total Chinook mortalities are estimated at nearly 40,000 fish.  Since 1982, only the 42,000 fish in 1987 is larger. The Chinook handle in 2015 is very close to 60,000 which is a record
  • The coho fishery at Buoy 10 is on-going.  Estimated harvest through September 7 totals 35,000 fish (including release mortalities) compared to the total 56,500 fish estimated preseason.
  • On the Lower Columbia mainstem from Bonneville Dam to the Rocky Point/Tongue line, based on in-season modeling the sport fishery is projected to accrue 40,000 Chinook mortalities.   It would be a new record since at least 1969. The previous record were the 32,000 fish in 2013. Including release morts, the 2013 total was 33,700.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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