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Most Fall Chinook At Mouth Of Columbia Since 1940s; B Stock Steelhead, Early Coho Downgraded
Posted on Friday, September 27, 2013 (PST)

Updates created his week based on actual dam counts and other information peg the 2013 forecast for the fall chinook return to the mouth of the Columbia River at 1.2 million fish, which would be a record dating back to at least the early 1940s, and likely beyond.

The updated 2013 forecast includes anticipated “adult” returns, but not so-called jacks, which are fish that return to the Columbia-Snake river system after only one year in the Pacific Ocean. A total of 1.2 million fall chinook salmon were estimated to return to the Columbia system in 1941, but that total included jacks.

An adult return total of 1.2 million, including lower Columbia (downstream of Bonneville Dam) and upriver stocks should already be nearly in hand, considering dam counts and harvests in hand.

Through Wednesday a total of 844,083 fall chinook had been counted passing up and over Bonneville, which is located at river mile 146. That total includes so-called upriver brights, Bonneville Pool hatchery tule fall chinook and Pool Upriver Brights. The large majority of the fall chinook passing Bonneville are URBs, most of which are destined for the Hanford Reach area of the mid-Columbia, Priest Rapids Hatchery, areas upstream of Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia, and the Snake River. Smaller URB components are destined for the Deschutes and Yakima rivers.

Snake River wild fall chinook are a subcomponent of the URB stock. The wild Snake River fall chinook are protected from take under the Endangered Species -- i.e., harvests on URBs are controlled to assure limited impact on the Snake River wild fish.

Counts remain strong – including a total of 13,906 adult fall chinook at Bonneville Wednesday. Counts have exceeded 13,000 every day, with three slight exceptions, since Aug. 27. The peak count this year – 63,870 on Sept. 9 is an all-time high on a record dating back to 1938, the year the dam went into operation.

The total fall chinook passage this year at Bonneville through Wednesday is 844,083, already surpassing the previous record of 610,000 set in in 2003 for the entire season, according to data compiled by the Fish Passage Center.

Chinook are counted as fall stock through the end of the year, but typically 90 percent or more of the run has passed the dam by late September. Daily counts have, for the most part, been declining in recent days.

Last year’s count through Sept. 25 was 317,113; the recent 10-year average through that date is 349,370.

The jack counts throughout the Columbia-Snake hydro system have been strong, though not quite as high as last year. Jack counts help to predict the strength of later years’ runs when older fish from the same brood year return.

The number of returning 2-year-old jacks counted at Bonneville, the lowermost dam in the system, totaled 93,263 through Wednesday, including 2,174 that day. The jack count last year through Sept. 25 was 100,072. The 2012 year-end jack count was a record 124,166.

“The abundance of this year’s fall Chinook run is the perfect example of what this region needs to focus on and how we all benefit from strong returns,” said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. CRITFC is the technical “Partnerships and collaboration are rebuilding this run. Focusing on rebuilding abundance allows the region to move beyond unproductive allocation fights and puts fish back on to the spawning grounds.”

“This historic run is an encouraging sign that regional efforts to rebuild salmon populations are having a positive impact,” said Bill Bradbury, chair of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, whose Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program directs funding for many of those efforts. “By improving spawning and rearing habitat and carefully supplementing naturally spawning runs with hatchery-bred fish, we are not only boosting the runs but also providing fishing opportunities that contribute to our economy.”

According to a joint press release issued this week by CRITFC and the NPCC, state and tribal biologists attribute the historic run to various factors, including high spring river flows when the fish migrated to the ocean as juveniles two to five years ago, spill of juvenile fish over dams, good ocean conditions, ongoing projects to improve fish passage at dams and the habitat where fish spawn, and improved survival of fish produced in hatcheries. Included in the huge run is an anticipated record return of fall chinook to the Snake River, where the Nez Perce Tribe has been working to improve fish production and habitat.

CRITFC is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of four Columbia River Basin treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is a compact of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington that is directed by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to prepare a power plan to assure the Pacific Northwest region an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply. The power plan includes a program to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife of the Columbia River Basin affected by hydropower dams. The Council fish and wildlife program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration as mitigation for impacts caused by the construction and operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System. BPA markets power generated at FCRPS hydro projects.

The U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee met Monday to review upriver summer steelhead, fall chinook and coho run progress. TAC, made up of federal, state and tribal fishery officials, analyzes fish presence, past and present, in order to produce forecasts that are used by fishery managers and others.

TAC further downgraded the B stock steelhead (fish primarily returning to tributaries in the Salmon and Clearwater rivers in Idaho) to 15,000 fish total, including 3,700 wild fish. That compares to a preseason forecast of 31,600 Group B fish. TAC stayed with last week’s Group A steelhead run size projection of 205,000 fish total, including 86,000 wild fish (compared to 291,000 Group A fish forecasted in preseason). Group A steelhead return to tributaries throughout the Columbia and Snake basins.

TAC stayed with last week’s projections for chinook salmon of 832,500 adult URBs (compared to 434,600 forecasted in preseason) and 69,000 BPHs (compared to 36,300 forecasted). Chinook and coho forecasts are for return numbers to the mouth of the Columbia. The upriver summer steelhead forecasts for Group A and Group B fish are for counts at Bonneville Dam.

TAC downgraded the projected number of early coho salmon at Bonneville to 29,000 fish, which compares to 96,000 fish expected.The early coho run at Bonneville ends on September 30 and the late coho run will start on October 1.

TAC will meet again on Monday, Sept. 30 to further review the run sizes

PUBs represent the upriver component within what’s called the Mid-Columbia bright management stock. PUBs are a bright stock reared at Little White Salmon, Umatilla, 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, Hood, and Klickitat rivers.

The adult fall chinook count at McNary Dam is 313,783, with most of those fish following the Columbia north toward the Hanford Reach. The 60,000 fish escapement goal for McNary was met on Sept.7.

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