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Very Late Surge Of Spring Chinook Over Bonneville Gets Downgraded Return Up To ‘Average’
Posted on Friday, May 18, 2012 (PST)

The preseason forecast of a return of 314,200 adult upriver spring chinook to the mouth of the Columbia River -- which would be the fourth highest return since 1980, and 156 percent of the recent 10-year average -- has been squashed because of poor early accountings of the fish at Bonneville Dam.


But a very late surge of fish has at least assured that the 2012 run will be “average,” according to an updated run-size forecast produced Monday by the Technical Advisory Committee. TAC, made up of federal, state and tribal biologists, projected Monday that the adult upriver spring chinook return to the mouth of the Columbia will be about 202,000.


TAC reviewed the run again Thursday, and with continued strong counts, refined the estimate to 216,500 fish. The fisheries officials are scheduled to meet again Monday to reassess the situation. The average annual return during the 2000s was 210,100 adults (range 86,200 to 440,300), according to the Oregon-Washington 2012 Joint Staff Report. The 2001 run marked a high (since counting began in 1938) of 440,300 adult upriver spring chinook


Chinook passage at Bonneville, located about 146 river miles upstream from the river’s mouth at the Pacific Ocean, through Sunday amounted to 110,514 adults. Based on the 5-year average, upriver spring chinook passage at Bonneville is 67 percent complete by May 14, but has been late-timed for four of the past five years, according to a Joint Staff Report prepared by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife for a Monday meeting of the Columbia River Compact. The joint state Compact meets throughout the spring-summer season to consider commercial fishing seasons on the mainstem Columbia.


After three more days, the upriver spring chinook tally at Bonneville had risen to 130,098 adults. Counts appear to be headed downward. After a peak of 18,436 on May 9, the Bonneville counts have gradually slid, with Wednesday’s total at 4,036, according to data compiled by the Fish Passage Center.


The recent five-year average for which 50-percent of the upriver spring chinook run has passed Bonneville is May 7, and has ranged from May 1 to May 12.


The Compact on Monday approved the commercial sale of tribal catch from hoop nets, dip nets and hook and line in Zone 6 above Bonneville Dam. Allowable sales include chinook steelhead, sockeye, coho, walleye, shad, yellow perch, bass and carp.


The four treaty tribes involved in mainstem fisheries have said that, depending on catches in platform and hook and line fisheries and the run size, they may in the future request “some limited commercial gill-net fishing opportunity later in the spring.”


Thus far, two mainstem non-tribal commercial salmon fishing periods (18 hours combined) have occurred on the lower Columbia mainstem (below Bonneville) on April 3 and April 10. Landings include 6,179 chinook. Upriver chinook mortalities in those fisheries total 4,318 fish.


Winter season “select area” commercial fisheries in off-channel areas in the lower Columbia estuary concluded April 5 and spring fisheries began April 19. Landings through May 4 there total 2,701 chinook.


The lower Columbia River recreational fishery was open through Sunday April 22. The estimated catch for that sport fishery is 11,826 kept adult fish from 106,400 angler trips. Kept and release mortalities of upriver fish is estimated at 8,922.


The recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Oregon/Washington border was open March 16 through May 6. Catch totaled 591 kept and 174 released with upriver chinook mortalities totaling 608.


The recreational fisheries on the Snake River (Washington waters) opened below Ice Harbor Dam on April 20 and in three areas between Little Goose Dam and Clarkston, Wash., on April 25. Catch estimates through May 6 totaled 79 upriver chinook. Catch projections through May 13 are for an additional 405 upriver mortalities (kept plus released) for a total of 484.


The current season total upriver catch (kept and release mortalities) in all non-treaty fisheries is 14,056 fish, according to the joint state staff fact sheet. A final upriver run size of 154,500 would be required to remain within catch balance and impact limitations agreed to under a federal/state/tribal management agreement now in place.


Based on the number of upriver chinook remaining on the sport allocation for the area upstream of Bonneville Dam to the upstream end of the Oregon/Washington border, a joint state panel on Thursday decided to open the chinook fishery for an additional two days, Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20.


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