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Monday, September 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grim projections for Columbia, Snake steelhead just got worse

Hatchery-origin steelhead from the Columbia River system. (Bill Monroe / The Oregonian)
Hatchery-origin steelhead from the Columbia River system. (Bill Monroe / The Oregonian)

FISHING -- The bad news for steelheaders keeps getting, as they say, worser and worser.

"An unprecedented low summer steelhead run on the Columbia River took a dramatic turn downward Monday when biologists from Oregon and Washington said the front part of the two-phase run is even worse than expected," reports Bill Monroe of The Oregonian.

The news fell despite a sportfishing closure for summer steelhead this month from the mouth of the Columbia River to The Dalles Dam.

Perhaps less than half the dismal prediction of A- and B-run fish comprising the river's summer run above Bonneville Dam may actually show up.

A-run steelhead, the bulk of this year's disappointing prediction of 130,700, have now been downgraded from 112,100 to just 54,000 adults. The revision is based on poor numbers of returning fish at Bonneville's counting windows, where the A-run is considered half-done by now.

The remaining B-run steelhead, later-arriving, typically larger fish, are just starting to show at the dam and cannot be assessed until later in August or early September.

Despite the sharp downturn, biologists said today no additional restrictions are “imminent, but doesn't mean more won't come,” Tucker Jones, Columbia River project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, wrote in an email.

Jones and his Washington counterparts have already sharply curtailed sportfishing for summer steelhead, with all steelhead fishing/retention closed throughout August up to The Dalles Dam, in all of September from The Dalles to John Day dams and in September and October from John Day to McNary dams.

The summer steelhead woes come as a relatively decent run of fall chinook and coho salmon have sparked better fishing at Buoy 10.

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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