Chinook runs are notoriously difficult to predict, but if the jacks that returned this spring are any indication, Idaho anglers should brace themselves for a poor 2019 run.
Jack spring chinook are those that return to their home waters after spending one year in the ocean. Fisheries managers track their numbers as a way to predict the strength of the next run. A big jack run often signals anglers can expect a big return of adult two-ocean chinook the following year. Likewise, a poor jack run often means the next fishing season will be a disappointment.
The method, which is not an exact science, indicates the spring chinook run of 2019 won’t be one to remember fondly, according to Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. In his last spring chinook update of the year, DuPont foreshadowed the 2019 run.
“I debated on whether to give this forecast, because I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news,” he wrote.
He said the department estimated 1,113 jacks bound for the Clearwater River and 531 bound for Rapid River returned at least as far as Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River this spring.
“Since 2009, this is the third fewest we have observed for the Clearwater run and the lowest we have seen for the Rapid River run,” he said. “As you can imagine, this does not bode well for next year.”
Using a logarithm, he predicts about 11,035 hatchery chinook bound for the Clearwater River will return at least as far as Bonneville Dam next spring and just 4,123 chinook bound for Rapid River hatchery. For comparison, 2,476 Clearwater River chinook jacks were detected at Bonneville in 2017, producing a run of 12,107 adults this year. In 2017, an estimated 1,331 Rapid River jacks passed Bonneville to produce a 2018 count of 5,273.
It’s not an official forecast, but the prospects are looking gloomy.
“The bottom line is this analysis suggests we are in store for another down return next year,” DuPont said.
“I’m sure this is just as frustrating for you as it is for me. Let’s hope this forecast is wrong.”
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