three states that oversee angling regulations on the Snake River closed the
mainstem of the river to retention of steelhead in response to a historically
low expected return of the fish.
some tributaries in Oregon and Washington will remain open where anglers are
allowed to retain one hatchery steelhead, while the closure in Idaho is
of August 28, just 70,000 hatchery and 25,000 wild steelhead had passed
Bonneville Dam, just 30 percent of the 10-year average, according to information
from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee that forecasts fish runs in the
Columbia River basin last met August 14 to review the summer steelhead status.
At that meeting, it downgraded the A-run summer steelhead forecast to 54,000
fish (33,000 hatchery fish and 21,000 wild fish) from its pre-season forecast
of 122,100 fish. TAC did not review the B-run forecast. That is a later run and
is typically just 3 percent complete by this time of summer.
forecast for the combined A/B-Index steelhead return to Bonneville Dam is
119,400 fish, including 41,500 unclipped (34,100 wild) fish. The A-Index
forecast is 54 percent and the B-Index forecast is 25 percent of their
respective 5-year averages.
the poor outlook, our current estimates suggest enough fish will return to
sustain hatchery programs and provide fish for recreational harvest,” said Jeff
Yanke, ODFW district fish biologist in Enterprise, OR. “This is the lowest run we’ve seen in
decades, but I’d encourage anglers not to panic and give up on fishing this
year. Folks will just need to have a little more patience, and that is one
quality steelhead anglers bring to the river.”
the poor run, Oregon and Washington already had set other restrictions on
steelhead fishing, including area-specific, 1-2 month steelhead retention
closures and a one steelhead bag limit when retention is allowed in a series of
rolling closures that progress upriver following the steelhead return to reduce
the take of both hatchery and wild fish.
steelhead (hatchery and wild) must be released as follows:
Buoy 10 upstream to The Dalles Dam during Aug. 1-31
The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam during Sept. 1-30
John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam during Sept. 1 - Oct. 31
McNary Dam upstream to Hwy. 395 during Oct. 1 – Nov. 30
angling is also prohibited except for registered anglers targeting Northern
CBB, June 16, 2017, “States Set Schedule Of Angling Closures Aimed At
Protecting Low Numbers Of Wild Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439106.aspx)
summer steelhead pass Bonneville Dam from April through October. Fish passing
during July through October are categorized as A-Index or B-Index (also known
as A-run or B-run) based on fork length. A-Index are less than 78 cm (about 31
inches) and B-Index are typically more than 78 cm. Passage during July is
mainly A-Index fish; B-Index passage normally begins around the end of August.
B-Index steelhead primarily return to Snake River tributaries in Idaho, while
A-Index steelhead return to tributaries throughout the Columbia and Snake
basins, according to the Fact Sheet.
this week, ODFW opens hatchery fall chinook fishing in the lower Snake River
September 1 through October 31 from the Oregon/Washington border with the river
to Hells Canyon Dam. The agency anticipates about 27,000 fall chinook this
year, which includes 8,000 wild fish. The daily bag limit is six adipose
poor return of steelhead, both hatchery and wild, has one Idaho biologist
asking and answering questions why the run is so small this year.
DuPont, Clearwater region fisheries biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish
and Game is pointing to poor ocean conditions as the culprit, at least for the
A-run of steelhead.
a thoughtful assessment of the lower than average run of summer steelhead (“Why
are Idaho’s steelhead runs so low?” https://idfg.idaho.gov/blog/2017/08/why-are-idahos-steelhead-runs-so-low), DuPont said of the
A-run of Idaho steelhead, which are mostly hatchery fish, that most of them
out-migrated to the ocean during the spring of 2016, spending just one year in
the ocean before returning this year.
are a number of factors that influence a juvenile steelhead’s survival and even
that can vary depending on if the fish is from a hatchery or is wild, he said.
example, wild fish typically rear two to three years in fresh water before
migrating to the ocean. As such, stream flow, summer and winter water
temperatures, habitat conditions, and the number of adults that spawned can all
influence survival and the number of smolts that eventually migrate to the
the number of steelhead smolts that passed Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake
River in 2016 was actually higher than average when compared with 13 years of
Fish Passage Center data, he said.
predators (fish, birds and pinnipeds) are a factor in the Columbia River, there
were no large changes in predator numbers during the 2016 migration that would
explain a downturn in steelhead returns this year, DuPont said.
river flows also influence survival as juveniles migrate, but the relationship
between river flow and smolt survival is difficult to assess due to other
changes in the river, such as spill at dams, transportation of fish in barges and
the number of predators. However, flows in the Snake River in April and May
2016, during the peak migration, were about average, “suggesting low flows were
not responsible for this year’s low A-run return. In fact, if you look at
steelhead smolt survival from the Idaho/Washington border downstream to
Bonneville Dam, survival appeared about average when compared to the past 20
the number of out-migrating smolts was not abnormally low in 2016 (compared to
the last 20 years) and flows and survival were about average (for the last 20
years), that leaves ocean conditions as the main driver for this year’s
abnormally low return,” DuPont concluded.
far as a ranking of ocean conditions over the past 19 years, he said that 2016
ranked 16 out of 19, meaning ocean conditions were not good for salmon and
steelhead, and the amount and type of food that was available in the ocean may
be why. See https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/fe/estuarine/oeip/figures/Table_SF-02.JPG
of the more important food sources for young steelhead and smaller fish are
copepods, but not all copepods are created equal. Northern strains of copepods
typically dominate the Washington/Oregon coastal zooplankton community during
the summer, DuPont wrote. These tend to be larger and fat-rich providing
smaller fish, such as juvenile steelhead and salmon, important calories needed
to grow and survive through winter. The southern strains of copepods are
smaller and have less fat in them essentially providing fish a “low calorie”
diet. Data shows that when northern copepods are abundant, survival of salmon
and steelhead goes up, whereas when southern copepods are abundant, survival
is very apparent is that in all of 2016, northern copepod biomass was down and
southern copepods abundance was up. This doesn’t bode well for salmon and
steelhead survival,” DuPont said.
to the food supply or perhaps one of the reasons for the presence of southern
copepods is The Blob, a massive area of unusually warm water that was located
off the coast of the Pacific Northwest peaking in 2015 but persisting into 2016
when the juveniles entered the ocean.
with ‘The Blob’ was poor nutrient levels, low biomasses of zooplankton, and
warm water species typically not present in northern latitudes,” he said.
“These are all factors not favorable to steelhead survival.”
is obvious that I am pointing at poor ocean conditions for the reason this
year’s steelhead A-run is extremely low,” DuPont concluded. “However, I need to
emphasize that continued improvements to spawning and rearing habitat and the
migratory corridor can make a difference in salmon and steelhead returns. In
fact, I would argue that in years like this, if we had better spawning, rearing,
and migratory conditions, it could buffer the poor ocean conditions to the
point that we could still provide harvest fisheries in Idaho, and wild fish
would not be threatened of going extinct.”
Sport Fishing Regulations are at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/reg_changes/index.asp
about Washington rule changes can be found at WDFW's website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/
August 25, 2017, “Fall Commercial Fishing Begins On Columbia, Low Steelhead
Numbers Prompts Idaho To Suspend Retention,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439475.aspx
July 28, 2017, “Fall Fishing Opens To Lower Than Usual Chinook Returns; Season
Includes Rolling Steelhead Closure,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439345.aspx
July 21, 2017, “Summer Chinook, Sockeye Runs Downgraded; Treaty Commercial
Fishery Extended,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439313.aspx
July 14, 2017, “Harvest Managers Approve More Tribal Fishing, Concerns
Expressed Over Low Sockeye, Summer Steelhead,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439267.aspx
July 7, 2017, “Summer Chinook Fishing Resumes Below Bonneville, Wild Summer
Steelhead Passage To Date Very Low,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439220.aspx