The abundance in the Columbia River basin of a fish species rich in nutrients that provides a source of food for numerous riverine birds and animals, as well as Native Americans, has been in decline over the past 20 years, according to a presentation this week at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee meeting.
Amid concern about record low numbers of steelhead moving up the Columbia River so far this year, state fishery managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have announced new restrictions on steelhead fishing in the Snake River, as well as several Snake and Columbia River tributaries.
Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife staffs say there is little more that can be done to protect the dismally small number of upriver summer steelhead migrating this year in the Columbia River basin short of shutting down all non-tribal fishing, and even that “would not move the needle,” one staff member said.
Due to higher-than-expected catch rates and unexpected impacts to a salmon stock listed under the Endangered Species Act, Chinook salmon retention on the Columbia River from the Buoy 10 line upstream to the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line will close effective Friday, Aug. 27.
A 60 percent drop in the forecasted run of summer steelhead over Bonneville Dam is adding to the already bad news for Columbia and Snake river steelhead returns this year, which is seeing its worst year since Bonneville Dam was built.
Nearing the end of the 2021 sockeye salmon migration in the Snake River basin, river managers and the state of Idaho have adopted a hybrid approach to ensure as many of the endangered adult migrants complete their long journey up the Salmon River and into the Stanley Basin.
An informal coalition of fisheries-focused conservation groups is urging the fish and wildlife commissions in Oregon and Washington to step up to save summer steelhead in a year when their returns are at the lowest numbers since Bonneville Dam was built and in a year when water temperatures threaten their migration.
As the Columbia River at Bonneville Dam warms to over 71 degrees Fahrenheit and with expectations of the second lowest steelhead run since Bonneville Dam was built, recreational angling for fall chinook, the largest remaining run of chinook salmon on the Columbia River, begins August 1.
Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, co-owners of the Pelton-Round Butte Complex of dams on central Oregon’s Deschutes River, have worked as partners to reintroduce salmon and steelhead upstream of their dams since 2011, with varying degrees of success.