Just over 6 million shad have now been counted at Bonneville, adding to a tally that exceeded 2004’s old high mark of 5.35 million nearly three weeks ago.
The 10-year average is 2.1 million. The true count is likely higher because some portion of the fish go through the locks instead of past the counting windows.
This year’s biggest days were 379,739 on June 18, 373,447 on June 20 and 349,260 on June 21.
While those didn’t challenge the biggest days on record — 520,664-shad June 6, 2003 and 504,224 on June 5, 2003 — a 10-day period between the 17th and 26th produced nearly half the run, 2.93 million.
Bank and boat anglers were catching thousands of shad a week during the peak of the run
Shad are not native to the Northwest or West Coast and those that return now are the descendants of those introduced into the Sacramento and stocked in the Columbia in the late 1800s.
Their numbers have been rising since counting began at the dam, with 1979 the first year they topped 1 million.
Interestingly, while 2004’s and 2005’s high shad runs occurred in years that also saw high overall Chinook returns, that coincidence isn’t likely to repeat this year, at least by numbers we’ve seen and the fall forecast.
It’s possible that shad are benefiting from a good spawn in 2015, when the Columbia was low and warm, but the anadromous species doesn’t necessarily spawn after dying like salmon.
For more on shad, including their history, biology, fishing tips and a recipe, go here.