Columbia fishery managers today sharply downgraded this year’s A-run of steelhead and now expect the worst overall return past Bonneville in over three and a half decades.
On the flip side, the fall Chinook run at the dam so far “is slightly ahead of expected passage” and fishing downriver from there should continue to pick up. Over 960,000 kings are predicted, which would be among the best returns ever.
But first, those steelhead: The forecast now calls for a total of 149,200 A- and B-run summers, down from the preseason forecast of 256,200.
“The A-runs, the one-salts, are not showing well,” says WDFW Columbia River fisheries manager Ron Roler in Vancouver.
Unless there’s an unexpected burst of fish, it means the 2016 run will be the lowest since 129,000 came back in 1980.
Summer steelhead provide good boat and bank angling in the Lower Columbia, at Drano Lake and other cold-water refuges in the Gorge, and from Tri-Cities upstream to North-Central Washington and Hells Canyon tribs of the Snake River.
Recent years have seen record catches in the Lower Columbia. However, this year’s limit is one hatchery steelhead a day to reduce impacts on the low forecasted return of wild steelhead.
“The Blob theoretically shouldn’t have affected steelhead — they’re way out, not like salmon, which follow the shores,” Roler says.
Coho took a major hit in 2014 and 2015 from the unusually warm ocean waters in the North Pacific (which are a major feature in the latest National Geographic), and so far the coho count at Bonneville stands at 82, just one-third of the 10-year average.
If there’s good news, it’s that Roler says the B-run steelhead forecast of 25,800, though not all that great, remains the same as preseason. They tend to return a bit later than the A’s.
Though salmon fishing at Buoy 10 hasn’t been up to 2015’s outlandish standards, the estuary has been providing anglers with salmon.
Earlier today, ODFW estimated that through Aug. 15, there had been 3,388 Chinook and 178 coho kept and 1,415 Chinook and 77 released over 19,891 angler trips.
Overnight, Buzz Ramsey reported he and his crew had hooked six or seven, landed five and kept two hatchery salmon, a coho and a Chinook, on Monday, when only fin-clipped fish can be kept.
“Both fish fell for bait, herring or anchovy, trolled in combination with a Fish Flash,” Ramsey emailed. “Dave Calhoun’s came on the High Tower finish and Owin Hayes’s on a green flasher with silver tape on both sides, something we thought might work given the sunny conditions and which we custom made on the boat. I did land one Chinook on a Mulkey Guide Tech Squid Spinner but it had too many fins. Although we caught one Chinook just below the bridge in the north channel all others came above the bridge on both sides of the river, which is where most of the action seemed to be taking place.”
ODFW’s Jimmy Watts reported that of 389 Chinook counted caught last week, roughly half had come from Tongue Point, which is above the Buoy 10 fishery proper. Though there were good tides, Watts termed fishing “slow.”
WDFW’s Roler says this has been “a more typical start” to Buoy 10, slow early with building catches. He plans to bring his boat and begin fishing this weekend.