A regional advisory committee that forecasts Columbia River salmon runs so
fisheries managers can set recreational, commercial and tribal fisheries this
week cut their early season run size prediction for spring chinook in half.
fishing for salmon and steelhead has come to a halt on the Columbia River and
the new forecast assures that angling will not be resumed until June 15, the
cutoff date distinguishing the spring and summer runs of chinook, unless more
fish begin to move over Bonneville Dam, which could prompt a revised and
perhaps higher run forecast.
its meeting this week, Monday, May 15, the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory
Committee reviewed the spring chinook run size which it had earlier predicted
at 160,800 fish, cutting its estimate nearly in half to 83,000 fish.
a statement released Monday afternoon, TAC said that it “examined a number of
different possible predictors and agreed to a model that predicts a total
Bonneville passage through June 15 of 75,000. This model had a 95 percent
prediction interval of 43,000 to 107,000; characterizing the range of possible
outcomes. Current estimates of total fishery mortality and research fishing
mortality on upriver fish in the Lower Columbia River total 8,000 which makes
the current river mouth run size projection for upriver spring and Snake River
spring/summer Chinook 83,000. TAC will meet again on Monday May 22 and will
provide additional run updates.”
typically reviews its early season run size halfway through the run. On
average, half the run passes Bonneville by May 7. But when it met May 1 and
again May 8, it said that there was still insufficient data to provide an
accurate run size update.
2017’s 83,000 spring chinook forecast is not the worst run on record. Stuart
Ellis, the TAC lead for 2017 and harvest management biologist with the Columbia
River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said that there have been 14 years with
lower river mouth run sizes since Bonneville Dam was built – all in the 1970's
through the 1990s.
need average daily counts of a bit over 1,300 per day between now and June 15
to get us to 75K at Bonneville,” he said. “So this run could still be higher
than we are predicting if the counts are good. It could go the other way too.”
of Wednesday, May 17, 37,899 spring chinook adults and 3,108 spring chinook jacks
had passed the dam, and current passage is running around 2,000 per day (2,204
Monday, 2,201 Tuesday and 1,900 Wednesday). Last year on May 17, 114,671 adults
and 8,049 jacks had passed the dam. The 10-year average is 129,528 adults and 18,191
dismal returns and TAC’s revised run size forecast prompted the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife to close spring chinook fishing immediately in
the lower Snake River (https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1971). Recreational
fishing for spring chinook had already closed in the Columbia River downstream
of Bonneville Dam April 23 and it closed upstream of the dam May 5.
week fishery managers postponed the annual fishery for hatchery steelhead and
jack chinook salmon from Tongue Point upriver to the Interstate 5 Bridge, which
was set to begin Tuesday this week. Although steelhead anglers would have been
required to release any adult salmon they caught in the postponed fishery, a
certain percentage would die after release.
is no room for any non-treaty fishery, in fact the Snake River recreational
fishery was just closed and we are working on closing or reducing the fishing
area in the SAFE commercial fisheries to eliminate risk of impacting any up
river chinook,” Ron Roler, Columbia River fish manager for the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said this week. “TAC reduced the run size to
83,000 upriver Chinook and they reduced the Snake River wild component, which
further restricts fisheries.
do believe that the high flows have reduced passage at Bonneville Dam,” Roler
continued. “Spring chinook do not begin spawning until late summer and are in
no hurry to fight past the high water. Flows are not projected to drop in the
near future, so I am hoping that a change in weather might trigger movement
past the dam. Until they move, we are managing on a reduced run size and
management means watching the dam count and hoping they move sooner than
the tribal fishery remains open, which has about 1,000 more fish to catch,
according to Ellis. He added that tribal subsistence fishing is still open in
Zone 6 and that the “tribes are watching the fishery carefully as any future
run size changes could still affect the number of fish available for harvest.”
Jones, Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program manager for the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that ODFW has yet to update the
Willamette River run of spring chinook and that it appears the run is
“exceptionally” late this year. The first fish seen at Willamette Falls just
upriver of Portland was on April 7. Prior to this year, the latest first date
was March 28.
is some precedent for 50 percent passage dates into mid-June,” Jones said.
“Given that, it seems a bit premature to be making updates to that forecast.”
He added that a run update may not occur until June.
4,174 spring chinook and 208 jacks have been counted at Willamette Falls as of
Wednesday, far below last year’s count of 12,485 adults and 431 jacks, which
itself wasn’t a stellar year. The 10-year average is 16,854 adults and 414
agrees with Roler in saying that it looks like fish passage slows at very high
river flows – especially above 450,000 cubic feet per second – but that spring
chinook don’t spawn until the fall so their “expiration date” isn’t imminent.
Outflow at Bonneville Dam, May 19 at 7 am, was 445 kcfs.
being said, sooner or later temperature cues are going to be hard for them to
ignore,” Jones concluded.
May 12, 2017, “Spring Chinook Return Had A Little Bounce Then Back To Low
Numbers; Insufficient Data For Run Update,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438901.aspx
May 5, 2017, “5,192 Springers Pass Bonneville By May 3 (10-Year Average That
Date, 75,463 Fish); Good Late Run?” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438854.aspx
April 14, 2017, “Lower Columbia Spring Chinook Fishing On Upward Trend, Two
Five-Day Angling Periods Added,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438715.aspx
April 7, 2017, “Harvest Managers Extend Springer Fishing Citing Poor Water,
Fishing Conditions,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438673.aspx