Earlier that summer hundreds of thousands of sockeye died as they migrated up the too-warm Columbia, as did dozens of oversize sturgeon.
Summer streams were bone dry due to the previous winter’s snowpack failure. Many waters were closed or under restricted fishing hours. Forest fires roared in the mountains and hills.
The Blob was hungry in 2015, though the high numbers of Columbia kings and relative snappiness of starving coho and pinks initially hid it from us, and we foolishly didn’t consider how long the North Pacific’s hangover would last.
Now in 2018 we’re at the other end of the salmon cycle.
ODFW’s Tucker Jones said that if the fall king run continues tracking as it has, it will be the lowest return since 2007, when 220,200 limped into the mouth of the Columbia.
I wonder if it won’t ultimately come in at lows not seen for two and a half decades — the 214,900 in ’93.
Funny how that number and the offage between the mid-September 2015 runsize update and what it ultimately came in at are so close.
There is some hope, though. Last year’s run spiked unexpectedly after the usual high-count days, so we’ll see.
But in the meanwhile Chinook as well as coho and steelhead fishing have been closed from Buoy 10 all the way to Tri-Cities, and the steelie bag reduced to one hatchery a day in the Snake River basin.
CRITFC postponed a gillnet opener decision, though platform fisheries remain open, and nontreaty commercial fishing in the SAFE zones were shut down.
In the usually productive free-flowing Hanford Reach, the adult URB limit has been cut to one a day.
Just three falls ago, we harvested a record 33,885 in the Reach, and that November I wrote, “What a year!!!!!!!! Remember this one — it truly is The Good Ol’ Days.”
There were warning signs, but to hit the bad old days after such highs so fast is a reminder that the runs do ebb and flow.
Hopefully the closures and restrictions WDFW and ODFW have announced help rebuild the stocks and get us out of this hole and back on the water sooner.
*Editor’s note: Hat tip to Mike Fisenko who brought back this memory on Facebook.