With Bonneville Dam counts lagging a bit, fishery officials this week downsized their estimation of how many upriver fall chinook salmon would return this year to the mouth of the Columbia River.
The federal, state and tribal representatives on the Technical Advisory Committee on Monday, based on the count through Sept. 11, predicted that the “upriver bright” fall chinook run size would total 354,000 adults to the mouth of the river. That’s down from a preseason expectation of 390,900, which would have been the highest observed return since 1987 and the second highest since 1964.
The updated forecast would still be the biggest URB return since 2004 and the fourth largest back to at least 1985. The URBs are fish originating from hatcheries and spawning grounds above Bonneville Dam in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Bonneville is located 146 river miles upstream from the river mouth.
The Bonneville Hatchery Pool tule fall chinook forecast was also downgraded from a preseason forecast of 116,400, which would have been similar to the 10-year average, to 73,000. The BPH stock is composed primarily of fish from Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.
Also downgraded was the pool upriver bright fall chinook stock from 62,600 to 56,000. The Bonneville upriver bright stock projection rose slightly from 36,600 to 36,650.
Chinook passaged at Bonneville through Sunday totaled 221,367 adult fish, including 176,979 bright stock and 44,151 tule stock. Based on the 10-year average, typically 59 percent of a year’s fall chinook bright run and 77 percent of the tule run will have passed Bonneville by Sept. 11. TAC estimated that this year’s run is 2-3 days later the recent 10-year average.
“But it’s still in the peak passage time at Bonneville so things still could be volatile,” with possible upswings or downswings in the daily tallies, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Cindy LeFleur told the Columbia River Compact Monday. The Compact sets mainstem commercial fisheries.
Counts Monday-Wednesday lifted the overall fall chinook total to 262,251.
On the positive side, the coho salmon count at Bonneville had reached 63,882 fish through Sunday. The forecast is for total passage of 81,500 coho for the entire year. With daily counts averaging nearly 5,000 Monday-Wednesday the overall total had risen to 80,362.
“Things are looking good at Bonneville for coho,” the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s John North said.
The Compact, comprised for representatives of the ODFW and WDFW directors, met Monday and Thursday to consider mainstem Columbia for the non-Indian gill-net fleet in the lower river (below Bonneville) and four treaty tribes – the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama – fishers in reservoirs above Bonneville.
The non-Indian commercial fishers in eight nine-hour outings in August netted 25,300 fall chinook, less than their 42,500-fish allocation for August. All but one of the fisheries were scheduled in fishing zones 4-5 in the upper part of the lower Columbia from Bonneville down to Warrior Rock near St. Helens, Ore., to avoid bycatch of lower Columbia River tule stock, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Compact on Monday approve four fisheries of 9 to 10 hours beginning Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
The Compact on Thursday approved a 4 ½-day treaty commercial fishery that begins Monday morning in mainstem pools above Bonneville. The tribes estimate that they have caught 51,602 chinook, including 33,903 URBS, through Sept. 10 and will have caught a total of 106,702 fall chinook by the end of next week. The overall projections are for a fall season catch of 15,872 steelhead, including 6,984 so-called “B” stock, by the end of the day Sept. 23. B steelhead are later-running fish bound for, primarily, Idaho.
Those projected catch totals through next Friday would represent 20.8 percent of the URB run, as compared to a tribal allocation of 30 percent, and 13.2 percent of the B stelelhead run, compared to a 20 percent allocation. Among the URBs are wild Snake River fall chinook, which are ESA listed. Likewise the steelhead run includes wild fish that are listed.
Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington also announced this week that they will reopen some chinook salmon seasons in the lower Columbia River, effective today. The additional fishing opportunity is possible due to lower than expected catches of ESA-listed lower river wild tule fall chinook.
Under the rule change adopted at a joint state hearing Monday afternoon, chinook retention will be allowed from Buoy 10 upstream 19 miles to Tongue Point starting Sept. 16 and continuing through the end of the year. The daily bag limit from Sept. 16 through the end of the year will be two adult salmon/steelhead in combination.
Coho and steelhead must be adipose fin-clipped, but chinook can either be clipped or not. Retention of jacks is prohibited in this fishery until Oct.1.
Farther upstream, from Tongue Point approximately 69 miles upstream to the Warrior Rock/Lewis River line, chinook retention will be allowed Sept. 16, 17, and 18. Chinook retention (for adults and jacks) will close again effective Sept. 19 and reopen Oct. 1 through the end of the year. The daily bag limit is two adult salmon/steelhead in combination. Coho and steelhead much be adipose fin-clipped. When chinook retention is allowed, adult and jack chinook may be retained whether fin-clipped or not.
From the Warrior Rock/Lewis River line upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, chinook retention is currently open and will remain open until the end of the year with no changes from previously adopted seasons.