Tag Archives: bonneville dam

Shad Top 6 Million Mark At Bonneville

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.

States Add Columbia Springer, Sturgeon Days


Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington extended the ongoing recreational spring Chinook fishing season on the lower Columbia River, set a one-day white sturgeon season  in the estuary, and approved a two-fish bag limit on Chinook above Bonneville Dam today during a joint state hearing.

Andy Schneider holds a Columbia Estuary Sturgeon caught on a recent retention day. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

 Downstream of Bonneville Dam, the states approved a nine-day extension to the ongoing spring Chinook season starting June 7 and continuing through June 15. The effective area is from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line up to the boat and bank deadlines near Bonneville Dam. The bag limit is up to two adult salmonids (Chinook, coho, or steelhead) per day, and only hatchery fish may be kept.

From Bonneville Dam upstream to the OR/WA border, the ongoing spring Chinook season was modified to allow fishermen to keep two adult hatchery Chinook per day instead of one beginning June 7.

The spring Chinook seasons were approved in light of catch and fish passage information that affirmed a previous forecast of 116,500 upriver spring Chinook returning to the river mouth, leaving additional fish for harvest.

Fishery managers from the two states also set a one-day white sturgeon retention season for Saturday, June 9, ending at 2 p.m. on that day. The open area is the mainstem Columbia River from Wauna powerlines downstream to the river mouth at Buoy 10, including Youngs Bay and all adjacent Washington tributaries.

The legal size slot for this fishery is 44-inch minimum and 50-inch maximum fork length, with a daily bag limit of one fish and an annual limit of two fish.  Anglers are reminded that green sturgeon may not be retained.  Identification signs have been posted at local launching ramps.

For more information about upcoming Columbia River seasons, including regulation updates, visit ODFW’s online fishing reports atwww.myodfw.com.

‘New Record Low’ For Columbia Upriver Springer Run

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).

Lake Washington Sockeye Closing Fast On Forecast, Columbia Tally

More sockeye have now been counted at the Ballard Locks this year than in all of 2016 and 2015 combined.

According to the latest tally posted by WDFW this afternoon, some 62,587 of the salmon have returned to the Lake Washington system.

And with a 6,200-fish day yesterday, the count is rapidly closing in on this year’s forecast of 77,000-plus.

An angler is calling on WDFW to open a fishery on the lake should the count reach 100,000, and that bid got TV coverage late last week.

In response, a state fishery manager spoke carefully in the written version of KING 5’s interview with sport advocate Frank Urabeck.

Urabeck is hoping to highlight the plight of a run that once regularly produced enough sockeye to hold semiannual fisheries, but hasn’t since 2006 because no returns have come anywhere close to meeting the 350,000-fish escapement goal needed to hold sport and tribal commercial seasons.

Meanwhile, as Seattle celebrates the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Ballard Locks tomorrow, a pair of local tribes will be gearing up for their annual ceremonial and subsistence fisheries on either side of the structure.

The Suquamish have a target catch of 2,500 sockeye, the Muckleshoots 1,000.

Of note, the Ballard Locks count is poised to take the lead over Bonneville Dam, where only 67,621 have been counted and the run appears to be tailing off a bit.

Columbia River tribes are fishing as if the return will be half of the preseason forecast, according to a state factsheet out last week.

If trends continue, this will be the first year since 2007 that more sockeye will have entered Lake Washington than the Columbia River.

And on Washington’s other sockeye front, 1,631 sockeye have shown up at the Baker River trap, with 546 of those transported up to Baker Lake, where angling opens this Saturday, July 8.

So About Monday’s Huge Bonneville Shad Count … LOL

Remember Monday’s insane shad numbers at Bonneville?

Half a million!!

Third most ever!!!

Oh, my god, the dam’s failing there are so many shad battering against it!!!!

There’s a slight update to report.

The Army Corps of Engineers has since revised its initial 497,738 count for June 19 down to 247,366.


True, that’s still a creditable effort for this year’s run, but more workmanlike than anything to get all cray-cray about.

Quarter-million shad days, while not overly common, do happen as the annual run peaks, a review of the records show.

Broadly speaking, there have been three so far this week, and early June 2004 saw five of them in a row.

But there’s a bit of a difference between a quarter and a half mil.


So what happened with Monday’s tally, the one that sent this “reporter” and a certain peddler of fancy fish “factoids” into OMG! mode?

We turn to Corps spokesman Karim Delgado in Portland for an explanation:

“I just got off the line with our natural resources team,” he reports by email this morning. “It seems there was a technical glitch in our count recording system, which has since been resolved. The count was redone based on a recording of the fish passage window and the fish counters arrived at 247,366 in the recount.”

For shame, for shame.

Still, that’s a buttload of fish, and it stands to reason there are a few biters amongst them.

For deets on how to fish for shad, go here.

Mayday! Columbia Springer Run Sets New Low Through April

Ever try to start your rig and it just won’t turn over?




That’s what comes to mind this morning as I look at the spring Chinook count.

Faced with high, cold flows pumping down the Columbia, the 2017 run has had a heckuva time getting going. Only 10 through March 15, triple digits not reached till April 8, the thousand-fish mark breached April 21, just under 3,350 through yesterday.



The collection of emails from Fish HQ with the words “record low” is slowly building towards grimmer signs.

The Bonneville tally through yesterday, April 30, is less than 60 percent of the old record low for the same date, and not even 6 percent of the 10-year average.


A total of 3,347 have been counted, well below 1949’s 5,770, the former record low.

And it’s a fraction of 1998’s and 1999’s very low runs in the upper 30,000s, though those appear to have been early-timed returns.


“Weird year. Washington Lower Columbia hatcheries are on track based on the preseason forecasts,” says fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. “Willamette only has 16 fish through the falls fishway through April 27.”

“Flows, water temps, and pinnipeds all probably are affecting the counts,” he adds.

It almost felt like the run was going to turn over coming out of April’s second fishery extension. Good numbers were caught, especially below Bonneville.


But in the week after it closed, the count didn’t do much.

Elizabeth Daly at Oregon State University wonders if fishcounting devices at the dam have been affected by water conditions, but she has her doubts that high flows are slowing the progress of springers upstream.

Daly, a senior faculty research assistant at OSU’s and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies in Newport, was a coauthor of a paper published earlier this year that predicted this year’s springer run could come in well below the forecast of 166,000-plus above-Bonneville-bound fish.

She says the paper didn’t give a specific forecast, but gave a range of 200,000 down to 80,000, based on different indicators.


Bill Monroe had an interesting tidbit in an Oregonian article that came out 10 days ago. He wrote:

John North, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Columbia River program, said a rough look at 152 coded wire tags recovered by fish checkers from anglers showed nearly a quarter of the salmon were close to the 24-inch mark.

However, he said, all were 4- and 5-year-old adults.

When this year’s returning adults went to sea as juveniles in summer 2015, The Blob was at its strongest, most destructive for Northwest fish and wildlife.

Offshore surveys found spring Chinook that were “thin, with empty stomachs, just not doing well,” says Daly.


“That first year is really critical to survival to adulthood,” she says.

Many probably died, starved or eaten.

Perhaps for some reason this year’s springers are just behaving differently, Daly wonders.

Similar to the adult count, jacks are just 2 percent of the 10-year average. Packed with fat for their long upstream journeys to spawning grounds they’ll visit in summer, maybe springers can afford to wait a bit for better flows.

But on the other hand, steelhead don’t appear to be having issues at Bonneville. Though this year’s return is below the average over the past decade, that rate held steady through April.

This speculation springs to mind: Perhaps a Blob-hamstrung year-class just doesn’t have the strength to swim upstream in the face of such cold volumes of water pouring downstream?

I call this my “have your springer and eat it too” theory.

For the time being, me and Daly will continue watching the dam count — “every day,” she says — hoping there’s some gas in the tank somewhere.