Spring Chinook forecasts for Washington’s Lower Columbia and Gorge tribs are out and they don’t look too hot.
WDFW is forecasting just 3,700 of the year’s first salmon back to the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis, and 8,400 to the Wind, Drano and Klickitat.
Individually the runs are all below to well below the 10-year average, with the Cowlitz expecting the fewest returning all the way back to 1980.
Managers blame the Pacific, where the fish feed for a couple years before returning to their home rivers.
“Ocean conditions between 2015 and 2018 were among the worst observed during the last 20 years and have likely had a strong influence on the spring Chinook cohorts that will return to these tributaries in 2020,” WDFW states.
It represents a grim beginning to the slow annual unveiling of the next year’s salmon forecasts.
After Columbia springer numbers are released comes a preliminary outlook for the big river’s fall king and coho runs, followed by harder numbers for bright and tule Chinook stock segments, and then Oregon Coast coho and Washington king, silver, sockeye and chum forecasts later in winter.
Springer fishing was closed on the Cowlitz and Lewis this past season, as was the Columbia below Warrior Rock, with the Kalama’s limit also dropped to one due to low forecasts.
Drano and Wind had to be closed late in the fishery to help hatchery systems elsewhere in the Columbia Basin meet broodstock goals.