Projecting a large return of summer chinook and a record-breaking sockeye return, fishery managers this week announced 2012 summer and fall salmon fishing seasons on the Columbia River.
The seasons are based on results of this year’s Pacific Fishery Management Council process, which involves tribal and non-tribal fishermen as well as state and federal entities. It included a series of public meetings, referred to as North of Falcon, in which fishery managers from several jurisdictions convene to plan salmon fisheries on the Columbia River and parts of the ocean off the Oregon and Washington coasts.
This year’s projected return to the mouth of the river of summer chinook is expected to be 91,000 adult fish with the retention season currently scheduled to run from June 16 through July 1.
“If accurate, this projection of 91,200 adults would represent the highest return since at least 1980, and would be 135 percent of the 10-year average (67,500 adult fish),” according to the Jan. 20 Joint Staff Report compiled by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
The high summer chinook forecast stems in large part from the fact that a record number of jacks – precocious fish that launch their spawning mission after only one year in the ocean – returned last year. Their older broodmates are expected to return in force this year and next. The top jack count Bonneville Dam – based on a record that goes back to 1960 was 51,451 last year. Next best was 37,416 in 2009, according to data compiled by the Fish Passage Center.
Summer chinook redds are found in the Columbia, Wenatchee, Okanogan, Methow, Similkameen, Chelan, and Entiat rivers in central Washington.
“There’s a chance the season may be extended once we get a good look at what the actual return is,” according to Steve Williams, ODFW deputy Fish Division administrator. “Until then, we’re planning a conservative fishery to stay within the available quota.”
Similar to last year, sockeye salmon retention will be allowed during part of the summer season with retention scheduled to open May 16-July 1 downstream of the Interstate 5 Bridge at Portland and June 16-July 1 above the I-5 Bridge.
The 2012 preseason forecast for the Columbia River sockeye run is for a record return of 462,000 adults to the Columbia River, which includes 28,800 fish to the Wenatchee, 431,300 fish to the Okanogan, and 1,900 to the Snake River. Such a return would be 348 percent of the recent 10-year average.
The fall season begins Aug. 1, and includes the popular Buoy 10 fishery near Astoria and the fall “upriver bright” season in the main stem Columbia. The 2012 predicted run sizes and fishing season for chinook are similar to last year, though managers expect sport anglers will be allowed to retain chinook through Labor Day at Buoy 10. Managers are predicting coho returns will be down from last year but not enough to affect season length.
The total preseason 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, according to a Feb. 12 estimate released by TAC and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
That forecast includes an expected 353,500 adult "upriver bright" fall chinook headed for the mid-Columbia's Hanford Reach, the Snake River and other hatcheries and spawning areas above Bonneville. The URB return if realized would be the fourth largest return since record keeping began in 1964. Last year's actual return was 325,100 as compared to the preseason forecast of 398,200.