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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Summer steelhead forecast looking up

Marcia Trussell goes in for a high-five with Ted Mordhorst after she reeled in a steelhead that Mordhorst was able to net while fishing on the Clearwater River nearby Dworshak Dam on June 5 in Ahsahka.  (August Frank/Lewiston Tribune)
By Eric Barker Lewiston Tribune

It’s not a return to happier days but this year’s forecast for hatchery summer steelhead is rosier than those of the recent past.

State, tribal and federal fisheries managers are calling for about 122,000 steelhead bound for tributaries upstream of Bonneville Dam, including the Snake River, to return this year. Steelhead and other anadromous fish runs are emerging from a rough stint that started in about 2017 and bottomed out two years later. Fisheries managers were expecting last year to be another low point for steelhead, perhaps even the lowest on record. The 2023 forecast called for only 63,400 A-run and B-run steelhead to return from the ocean.

But the fish fared better than predicted and the actual return neared 114,000. For context, Lothrop said this year’s forecast is still on the low side. He’d like to see runs numbering north of 200,000 and for wild fish numbers to improve substantially.

“We are still in a poor situation when we are looking at wild runs and total returns,” he said. “But we are not in (the neighborhood of) several of those horrific years we have seen.”

Run break down

The forecast calls for 89,900 A-run fish that mostly spend just a single year in the ocean and 32,200 B-run steelhead that tend to spend two years in salt water. Last year, the forecast predicted a return of just 8,000 B-run steelhead. The actual return was just shy of 20,000 and dominated by hatchery fish.

Lothrop said this year’s bump in the B-run forecast is based on last year’s return of B-run fish that spent just one year in the ocean. Fisheries managers use the return of jack steelhead, in part, to forecast the next run.

Since the A-run is comprised largely of fish that spend one year in the ocean, it is much more difficult to forecast.


Fisheries managers expect a return of more than 400,000 sockeye to the Columbia River. Almost all of those will be bound for the Columbia River and just a sliver, 3,800, to the Snake River