The 2012 sockeye return to the Columbia River basin was forecast to be the best ever, and in the early going the run, mostly bound for the Okanogan River system of north-central Washington and southern British Columbia, is performing as expected.
The sockeye count at the lower Columbia’s Bonneville Dam was 137,925 adult fish through Thursday with a high daily count, also on June 21, of 22,164. Counts over the past week had spiked, totaling more than 15,000 Sunday and Monday and 19,500 plus on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On average, 50 percent of the sockeye run headed upstream of Bonneville will have passed the dam by June 24. That midpoint has been experienced as late as July 1.
The 10-year average sockeye count at Bonneville through June 21 is 39,563. The total count through June 21, 2010, was 108,930. The 2010 run stands as the record, with more than 387,000 adult sockeye returning to the mouth of the Columbia.
The 2012 forecast for the Columbia River sockeye run is for a record return of 462,000 adults to the Columbia River. The forecast includes 28,800 fish to the Wenatchee River system in central Washington, 431,300 fish to the Okanogan, and 1,900 to the Snake River system. The Snake River fish, listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, make their spawning run 900 miles or so up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers.
The forecast return would 348 percent of the recent 10-year average, according to a joint staff report prepared by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
The Wenatchee component is forecasted to be 5,800 fish above the escapement objective of 23,000 fish. The Okanogan component, which has shown an impressive increase in run strength since 2008, is expected to continue that trend, the staff report says.
Although the Snake River component proportionately is a small component within the total run, a return of 1,900 fish would be 253 percent of the recent 10-year average return and would continue the upward trend observed in the past three years.
No sockeye have been counted passing the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam as of Thursday, according to the Corps data. Lower Granite is the eighth hydro project the fish must pass on their way to central Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley.