While the outlook for Washington’s ocean salmon fishing is grim, prospects inside the Columbia River are more encouraging.
On a positive note, the run of “upriver brights,” wild fall chinook headed primarily for the Hanford Reach in central Washington, is forecast to return at the highest level since 1989.
A run of 166,400 upriver brights is anticipated. Those fish are the mainstay of tribal catches in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools, plus provide sport fishing in the Hanford Reach. Upriver brights also contribute to the lower Columbia sport and gillnet catches.
On the downside are the forecasts for lower Columbia wild and hatchery fall chinook.
Returns to hatcheries such as the Cowlitz, Kalama, Washougal and others are anticipated to number 54,200. That’s better than the forecasts of recent years, and may be enough for Washington and Oregon hatcheries to fill their egg needs.
The biggest problem is in the North Fork of the Lewis River, the last stronghold of wild fall chinook in the lower Columbia.
The forecast is for a record-low 7,500 fall chinook to the Lewis. Guy Norman, Southwest Washington regional biologist, said 5,700 are needed to spawn to seed the river.
A run of slightly more than 200,000 coho is anticipated to enter the Columbia River, said Norman. The number could increase if there is no ocean season, or if the Canadians reduce their harvests.
Last year, 123,000 coho returned to the Columbia.
About three-quarters of this year’s Columbia coho are of the “early” stock, which enters the river from early August to midSeptember. Early coho largely fuel sport catches in the popular, late-summer Buoy 10 season at the mouth of the Columbia.
Getting enough coho back to Washington and Oregon hatcheries normally is not a problem. The two states need 20,600 early coho and 21,200 late coho to fill the hatcheries.
Late coho enter the Columbia from mid-September to late November.
A return of 322,000 fall chinook is predicted to enter the Columbia. That is almost identical with last year’s return.
Norman said the fall chinook forecast assumes a “normal” ocean season. The number likely will increase because there will be little, if any, ocean fishing.
Columbia River sport fishing seasons for this fall will be determined by mid-April.
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