For every bit of good news these days in the Northwest salmon and steelhead world, the universe bites back with three of bad.
This afternoon WDFW announced spring Chinook restrictions on a trio of Southwest Washington tributaries due to low expected returns.
The Cowlitz and Lewis systems will close as of March 1 for retaining springers, while the Kalama’s limit has been dropped from two to one.
No changes were made to their steelhead fisheries.
The news is not unexpected given predicted returns of just 1,400 springers each to the first two rivers, which in the case of the Cowlitz would be the second lowest return since 1980 and on the Lewis just 75 percent of the 10-year average.
“Based on this forecast, there is not expected to be enough fish above the hatchery broodstock need to support a fishery,” WDFW stated.
Yesterday, when Columbia salmon managers set this year’s springer season, they closed the big river below the mouth of the Lewis to try and get as many kings back to it and the Cowlitz as possible.
Those fish are key for meeting federal plans to reintroduce spring Chinook into the headwaters above Tacoma Power, Lewis County and PacifiCorps dams on both those tributaries.
WDFW also closed Scanewa Lake and the Cispus Rivers on the upper Cowlitz to springer fishing because given the forecast, not enough were expected to be available to be put into the upper watershed.
As for the Kalama, the forecast calls for 1,000 fish and managers say they need to cut the daily limit in half to try and meet broodstock goals on this damless system.
In 2019, springer retention on both the Cowlitz and Kalama was also restricted.
According to WDFW, too-warm ocean waters are most likely to blame for decreased Chinook runs.
“Conservative management is critical when ocean conditions are having a detrimental impact to Chinook survival like they have in recent years,” said the agency’s Ryan Lothrop about this year’s returns to the mouth of the Columbia River.