Through September, an estimated 26,591 adult fall chinook salmon have been caught and kept during 2011’s fall lower Columbia River.
That catch eclipses the previous record, 26,195 fish caught in 2003, according to data compiled by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. The record will increase after the October catch is added to August-September totals. The records began in 1969.
The number of angler trips to the lower mainstem so far during the fall season that begins Aug. 1 is also a record at more than 130,000. The previous high was 118,000 in 2009. The “lower river” is the stretch from a point at about river mile 18 upstream to Bonneville Dam at river mile 146. The lower boundary is defined as a line from Tongue Point just upstream of Astoria north across the river to Rocky Point in Washington.
The Technical Advisory Committee’s most recent in-season run-size forecast is for a return of 335,700 upriver bright fall chinook to the mouth of the Columbia River this year. That’s down from the preseason forecast of 399,600 adult URBs, but the new prediction would still be the fifth highest dating back to at least 1985, according the July 2011 Joint Staff Report prepared by the ODFW and WDFW.
In those preseason forecasts the URBs, fish headed to hatcheries and spawning grounds above Bonneville, made up more than half of the overall estimate that 766,300 adult fall chinook would return to the Columbia-Snake river system. Those stocks include the URBs, lower river hatchery and lower river will fall chinook, Bonneville pool hatchery tule fall chinook, and select area and Mid-Columbia bright fall chinook.
TAC, made up of federal, state and tribal fishery officials, did not provide a coho salmon run-size update this week, but estimates indicate the early stock is tracking closer to 250,000 fish, and the late stock run is tracking close to, or less than, the preseason expectation of 102,300 fish. The preseason forecast was for a return of only 168,500 early stock coho to the Columbia, which would have been only 48 percent of the recent 10-year average of 348,100 adult fish.
Upstream stocks seem to be faring well. A total of 3,918 coho had been counted this year through Thursday at Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington. That’s second best total, and counting (the tally was 158 on Thursday), on a record dating back to 1975 when construction of the dam was completed.
The high count at Lower Granite was 4,629 in 2009. Coho had gone extinct in the 1970s but were reintroduced by the Nez Perce Tribe in the 1990s and have since shown steady growth. Most are headed for central Idaho’s Clearwater River, which empties into the Snake River above the Lower Granite reservoir. Lower Granite is the eighth hydro project the fish must traverse on their spawning journey up the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Likewise the Yakama Nation reintroduced coho salmon in the upper Columbia to considerable success. A record total of 20,608 adult coho had been counted crossing up and over Rock Island Dam through Tuesday. And 1,381 coho passed the central Washington Dam on Tuesday. The previous high, on a record dating back to 1977, was 19,805.
Snake River fall chinook, which are part of the URB stock, are also returning in high, relatively, numbers. The count through Thursday at Lower Granite was 23,985 adult fish, which is second-best all time. The record was 41,815 in 2010; third best annual count was 16,228 in 2008.
Snake River fall chinook “jacks” are also showing up in high numbers this year. Jack are precocious spawners that return after only one year in the ocean. The count through Thursday was 18,711, which is second only to the 41,285 total in 2009. Third-best was a total of 12,895 jacks in 2010, according to data posted online by the Fish Passage Center, http://www.fpc.org/