This year’s Columbia River upriver spring Chinook run is off to a dubious start.
The 101 of the year’s first salmon counted at Bonneville so far is a “new record low,” according to Joe Hymer, a supervising fisheries biologist in Ridgefield.
It’s just 4.62 percent of the 10-year average at the dam for the date, 2,186.
“The previous record low were the 120 fish counted through April 10, 2005,” Hymer reported in an email factoid sent out this morning.
The April 10, 2006, count of 129 appears to be next lowest, a quick check of other low years’ tallies shows.
Even the lowest overall springer run seen at Bonneville, 1995’s, had pushed 1,616 over the dam by this point.
The 2018 forecast called for 166,700, about 90 percent of the 10-year average.
But this year’s top day so far was 27 last Friday, and the count has since posted 18-, 6-, 4- and 2-fish days.
Asked “What is the hold up? Is the water too cold, too shallow, too turbid, too pinnipeddy? Or is the forecast wrong?” Hymer simply replied, “Yes.”
Forecasters had warned of uncertainty — “Poor ocean conditions could potentially have negative impacts on spring Chinook returns” — when they issued predictions for the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis Rivers.
On the flip side, test netting earlier this week produced more than twice as many springers a drift as the previous week, 36 versus 14, but upriver fish declined to just 50 percent of the catch.
The sport fishery ended on Saturday, April 7, and catch stats have been a bit sketchy this season, but Hymer reported half a Chinook per boat (448 kept for 998 craft) landed last week, with continued dismal plunking for Washington-side shore sitters (three for 203).