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Daily Spring Chinook Passage At Bonneville Dam Picks Up, But Still Far Below 10-Year Average
Posted on Friday, May 04, 2018 (PST)

Passage of spring chinook salmon at Bonneville Dam was at just 996 fish as of April 25. That is the lowest number of fish passing the dam on that date since 1980, according to an Oregon/Washington joint staff report released April 26.


However, the passage number rose quickly to 10,570 fish by May 3. That’s still nearly seven times lower than the 10-year average of 72,274 on that date, but twice last year’s passage of 5,192 fish.


Day by day from April 25 when 181 fish passed the dam, daily counts rose. April 26, some 283 fish passed, with 804 passing April 27, 1,357 April 28, 1,812 April 29, 1,002 April 30, dropping to 633 May 1, 978 May 2 and a big daily jump to 2,705 May 3.


“Last year was late, but hopefully this year is late too,” said NOAA’s Paul Wagner at this week’s interagency Technical Management Team meeting.


The preseason forecasted run of upriver spring chinook is 166,400 fish. On average half of the run passes the dam by May 8. The US v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee is expected to update the run size in the next couple of weeks. The first update had typically occurred between April 29 (2015) and May 15 (2017).


“We met and discussed the run, but we all thought it was still too early to try and update it,” said Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s Stuart Ellis and TAC lead this year. “We will meet again at least each Monday and review things. It’s possible we could meet at other times also depending on the needs of the fishery managers.”


Over the past ten years, adult runs have averaged around 204,600 (range 115,800 to 315,300), according to the Compact’s Winter Fact Sheet #3 (


The preseason forecasted run for upriver spring chinook in 2017 was 160,400, but as has been noted, that run was late to arrive and by June 15 when the spring chinook run becomes the summer run, the upriver run had totaled just 115,821 fish.


With the 5 year average (2013 – 17) at 28,875 spring chinook on April 25 and the 10-year average of 29,538 fish, some 13 percent of the run typically passes the dam on this date, the joint staff report says (“Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife Joint Staff Report – Winter/Spring Fishery Update No. 1,”


Just 48 spring chinook had reached Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River as of May 3. The 10-year average is 4,866 on that date and last year the run was just 63.


Spring chinook fishing is currently allowed by Idaho upstream of the dam in the Clearwater and Salmon rivers, and by Idaho and Oregon on the mainstem Snake River. Biologists predict a run size of spring/summer chinook of 53,000 hatchery chinook and 13,000 wild chinook. The 2017 return was 30,000 and 4,000.


(See CBB, April 27, 2018, “Spring Chinook Fishing Opens Saturday In Idaho Though Few Fish Have Crossed Lower Granite,”


The run of upriver spring chinook could be on its way. The states and NOAA Fisheries have been monitoring the run size through gillnet test fishing in the lower river in Zones 2 and 3, March 18 through April 29. During that period the number of salmon caught has risen from 4 on March 18 to 129 April 22.


“There is evidence that this run is late,” wrote Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fisheries Manager, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, in his April 26 blog (


The best information to support this is the data collected in the test fishery, he wrote.


“This data shows capture of Chinook salmon started real slow and in the last couple weeks have picked up. The fish sampled in this test fishery typically show up at Bonneville Dam one to three weeks later, which means more are on their way. These test net numbers are actually similar to last year, which was the latest spring Chinook run we have seen in recent memory.”


Based on creel data in the recreational fishery through April 14 in the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam, 5,712 spring chinook were kept and 835 were released, the result of about 66,000 angler trips (OR and WA combined), the joint report said. Of that total, there are about 4,332 mortalities of upriver fish, including 4,268 kept and 64 release mortalities.


The two states have determined that an upriver spring chinook return of 81,800 would be adequate to cover the mortalities accrued in this fishery, and provide allocation for the other non-treaty fisheries. “Based on a 30 percent buffer on the preseason forecast of 166,700 adult upriver spring chinook, 7,157 mortalities of upriver fish (kept plus released mortalities) are available to this fishery prior to an in-season run-size update,” the report said.


Preliminary estimates are at


Recreational fishery from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Highway 395 bridge is open through Monday, May 7. The pre-season allocation for this fishery is 954 chinook (including release mortalities).


“As is typical for this fishery, catch and effort have been low to date,” the report said.


The Snake River recreational fishery in Washington waters is currently open two days per week until further notice. Through April 23, one chinook has been kept and one released from a total of 331 angler hours. This fishery has 920 mortalities allocated prior to a run-size update.


The winter season Select Area commercial fishery concluded April 17. Landings in that fishery total 1,110 chinook, including about 90 upriver fish. The spring season opener occurred on April 19 with approximately 257 chinook landed, including 36 upriver fish.


No mainstem commercial fishery in the lower Columbia River is currently planned for 2018, the report said.


Also see:


--CBB, April 13, 2018, “Low Bonneville Dam Passage For Spring Chinook Results In One More Fishing Day In Lower Columbia,”


-- CBB, February 23, 2018, “States Set Columbia River Spring Chinook Fishing, Hear Concerns About Upriver Allocations,”


-- CBB, February 2, 2018, “2018 Fishing Season: Gillnetting Begins For Salmon, Smelt In Limited Areas Of Mainstem Columbia,”


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