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Shad Don’t Mind The Dams; Over 3 Million Have Already Crossed Bonneville, Extend Range Upstream
Posted on Friday, June 21, 2013 (PST)

Non-native American shad are experiencing a revival of sorts to the Columbia River basin, it would appear, with counts at Bonneville Dam fish ladders spiking recently.

The total shad count for the season through Thursday had reached 3,414,907, which has already surpassed last year’s count for the entire season (which was 2.3 million) and almost double the 2012 count through June 20. Daily counts June 11-15 this year each totaled more than 200,000, though the peak of the 2013 run may have passed.

Daily counts early this week dropped to the 150,000 range so perhaps the peak of eh 2013 shad run has passed Bonneville. Wednesday’s count was a mere 80,303 and Thursday’s total was 34,824.

Since the late 1970s, all shad returns to the mouth of have met or exceeded one million fish per year, with a peak of more than six million in 2005, according to the Jan. 24 Joint Staff Report produced by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. Shad run timing extends from mid-May through early August at Bonneville Dam, with peak daily counts occurring in June.

This year’s count through June 20 is the fifth highest annual total at Bonneville on a record posted by the Fish Passage Center that dates back to 1947.

After that peak year the shad returns headed downhill each year until 2011 when the season’s count at Bonneville bottomed out at 948,070. That count doubled in 2012 and appears headed for a much higher total this year.

Shad are an introduced species brought to the West Coast from Pennsylvania in the late 19th century. The shad is an anadromous fish; spending three to four years at sea before returning to freshwater spawn. The can now be found in rivers from California to Alaska that feed into the Pacific Ocean.

In their native range the species, sometimes called Atlantic shad, were found from Labrador to Florida.

And while water system developments (dams, canals), along with other human development and overfishing, has been blamed for the near demise of shad in its native region, the East Coast, the opposite has been true out west. Since the extensive development of mainstem hydroelectric projects, shad runs have increased markedly in abundance and have extended their range into the upper Columbia River and into Hells Canyon of the Snake River.

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