Fishery officials predict a return to the mouth of the Columbia River this year of 353,500 adult “upriver bright” fall chinook salmon, a total that would be the fourth largest on a record dating back to 1964.
Larger totals were recorded, just barely in 2003 and 2004, and by a total of 420,000 in 1987, according to data compiled in the July 2011 Fall Joint Staff Report compiled by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. The estimated URB return to the Columbia last year was 325,100 fish.
The overall upriver fall chinook run is comprised of stocks produced upstream of Bonneville Dam, and includes URBs, Bonneville pool hatchery tules and a portion of the Mid-Columbia Bright stocks.
Most of the URB fall chinook are destined for the Hanford Reach area of the Columbia River, Priest Rapids Hatchery, and the Snake River basin. Smaller URB components are destined for the Deschutes and Yakima rivers. Snake River wild fall chinook are a sub-component of the URB stock.
So-called Pool Upriver Brights represent the upriver component within the MCB management stock. PUBs are a bright stock reared at Little White Salmon, Irrigon, and Klickitat hatcheries and released in areas between Bonneville and McNary dams. Natural production of fish derived from PUB stock is also believed to occur in the mainstem Columbia River below John Day Dam, and in the Wind, White Salmon, Klickitat, and Umatilla rivers.
The BPH stock is produced primarily at the Spring Creek Hatchery in the Bonneville Pool, although natural production of tules also occurs in the Wind, White Salmon, and Klickitat rivers.
The URB forecast would be part of a total fall chinook predicted return of 651,300, according to the Feb. 15 “Columbia River Fall Chinook 2012 Preseason Forecasts” produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee. TAC’s federal, state and tribal members annually produce and update Columbia-Snake river basin run-size forecasts for salmon and steelhead species.
The total return includes URBs and the other upriver stocks as well as lower river fall chinook. The overall 2012 fall chinook forecast of 651,300 Columbia River fall chinook is similar to the last two years’ actual returns and greater than the 10-year average of 569,400. The total return in 2011 was 604,100.
The Feb. 15 forecast for the BPH tule fall chinook component of the run is not so bright. The prediction is for a return of 63,800 adult fish, with would be slightly less than the 2011 return of 69,600 fish and 40 percent less than the recent 10-yar average of 100,300.
The PUB forecast is for a return of 66,200, which would better a 2011 return of 56,300 and be one-third greater than the 10-year average (46,100).
The BUB forecast is for 24,600 fish, slightly better than last year’s return but only about half of the 10-year average of 46,100 adult fish.
The Lower River Hatchery forecast for 2012 is 127,000 fish, which would be better 2011’s actual return of 109,300 and be about 40 percent greater than the 10-year average (91,700).
The Lower River Wild fall chinook stock forecast for 2012 is 16,200, slightly better than 2011’s actual return of 15,200 and similar to the 10-year average of 15,000.
The LRH stock is currently produced from hatchery facilities (four in Washington and one in Oregon) while the LRW stock is naturally-produced primarily in the Lewis River system, with smaller components also present in the Cowlitz and Sandy rivers. Natural production of LRH stock occurs in most tributaries below Bonneville Dam.
Fall chinook salmon protected under the Endangered Species Act include the Snake River wild stock, and lower Columbia natural tules, a subcomponent of the LRH stock.