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More Big Numbers Expected For 2015 Fall Chinook Return To Columbia; Third Highest Since 1938
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 (PST)

The third largest fall chinook salmon return on record is expected to return to the mouth of the Columbia River this summer and fall, according to preliminary estimates released Feb. 13.

 

The estimated return of 900,200 adult fall chinook would rank behind only the 2013 and 2014 returns on a record dating back to 1938. The record actual return was 1,268,400 adults in 2013, which was 227 percent of the 2003- 2012 average of 557,600 adults. Last year the actual return was 1,159,000, second highest on record.

 

The new preliminary run size forecast was released by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and a U.S. V Oregon Technical Advisory Committee sub-group. TAC is made up of federal, state and tribal officials.

 

The vast majority of the predicted return is made up of “upriver” fish. The upriver run is comprised of stocks produced upstream of Bonneville Dam (river mile 146), and includes upriver brights, Bonneville Pool Hatchery tules and pool upriver brights.

 

The URB forecast is for a return of 500,300 adult fish this year, which would also be the third highest on that record and similar to a five-year average (482,300) that has been inflated as a result of the huge 2013 and 2014 returns. Last year’s URB return totaled 684,200 and the 2013 return included 784,300 adults.

 

The forecast is for a return of 160,500 BPH tules to the mouth of the Columbia, which would be the highest return since 2004. Last year’s actual return was 127,000.

 

The 2015 forecast predicts a return of 86,500 PUBS, also the third highest. Last year’s PUB return totaled 169,900.

 

Most of the URB chinook are destined for the Hanford Reach area of the Columbia River, Priest Rapids Hatchery, areas upstream of Priest Rapids Dam, and the Snake River. Smaller URB components are destined for the Deschutes and Yakima rivers. Snake River wild (SRW) fall chinook, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act, are a sub-component of the URB stock.

 

The 2015 forecast is for a return of 20,900 wild Snake River adult fish.

 

An estimate of the 2014 SRW return is not yet available, according to the new forecast. Returns of SRW fall chinook to the Columbia River in 2013 totaled an estimated 32,900 fish, the largest return since at least 1986.

 

The SRW escapement to Lower Granite Dam is based on a comprehensive run reconstruction that estimates total natural and hatchery origin fish by age. Natural origin fish include all fish whose parents spawned naturally in areas upstream of Lower Granite, according to the 2014 Joint Staff Report produced by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife for late summer and fall fisheries.

 

PUBs represent the upriver component within the MCB 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 forecast return for Bonneville upriver bright fall chinook is 26,800 adult fish compared to 169,900 in 2014. That would be similar to the recent five-year average.

 

BUBs are hatchery fish reared and released from the Bonneville Hatchery, located on the Oregon shore just downstream of Bonneville Dam. Although considered a lower river stock, the original broodstock used to develop this stock were of upriver origin and a portion of the BUBs stray upstream of Bonneville Dam, according to the staff report.

 

The predicted Lower River Hatchery return for 2015 is 94,900 as compared to 2014’s actual return of 101,800. Lower river wild fall chinook are expected to number 18,900 in 2015 as compared to the 2014 total of 25,800. Both the LRH and LRW 2015 forecasts are close to the five-year average.

 

The LRH stock is currently produced from hatchery facilities (four in Washington and two in Oregon) while the LRW stock is naturally-produced primarily in the Lewis River system, with smaller components also present in the Washington’s Cowlitz River and Oregon’s Sandy River. Natural production of LRH stock occurs in most tributaries below Bonneville Dam. BUB production occurs just downstream of Bonneville Dam at the Bonneville Hatchery in Oregon. The LRBs are a natural stock that spawns in the mainstem Columbia approximately three miles downstream from Bonneville Dam. The LRB stock is closely related to URBs.

 

The Feb. 13 preliminary forecasts are estimate made in preparation for the North of Falcon season-setting process, which begins next month. Once that process is complete the forecasts will be update with final preseason predictions expected by mind-April.

 

The North of Falcon process includes a series of meetings involving representatives from federal, state and tribal governments and recreational and commercial fishing industries. The process coincides with the March and April meetings of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, where ocean commercial and sport salmon seasons are set.

 

For more information about the North of Falcon process, including a meeting schedule, go to:

http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/

 

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