This year’s unusually large run of pink salmon past Bonneville Dam — 600 percent more than the previous record — appears to have finally pooped out at 3,827, and it appears that even more of the humped ones found lower Columbia River tributaries to spawn in as well.
“Every place we’ve looked for Chinook we’ve found pinks,” supervising fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver told the Columbia Basin Bulletin last week.
True, the numbers were small, but CBB reported carcasses spotted in the Kalama and North Fork Lewis Rivers as well as Mill Creek, as well as above the dam in the Wind and White Salmon Rivers.
Just over 1,150 made it past The Dalles Dam, 697 over John Day Dam, and 491 over McNary Dam on the Columbia River, and 35 over Ice Harbor, 34 over Lower Monumental and 12 over Little Goose on the Snake River through the end of last week, according to data from the Fish Passage Center.
One even showed up in the sport catch on the Yakima River in early October.
Another was caught, photographed and released in the Deschutes River, and while it had the dorsal hump of a male, it was a shadow of the size of those that form on Puget Sound pinks.
Two salmon biologists speculated that at least 206 miles above the mouth of the Columbia, perhaps the fish had burned up its calories swimming instead of humping up.
While the big crick’s humpies may not be on the agenda, the subject of recent years’ high abundance of pink salmon in the North Pacific will be among the topics of an upcoming workshop.
“Maybe we’re starting to see some strays that are poking into the Columbia, starting to colonize,” research professor Lisa Seeb of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science told CBB.
Either that or previous years’ runs up the Columbia “have blossomed for the same reasons — most likely favorable ocean conditions — that pink and chum salmon populations around the rim are returning at record rates,” CBB reports.
Unfortunately, what’s good in the ocean for pinks as well as chums may not be so good for Chinook and coho.