Tag Archives: bonneville dam

Welcome To The Shadosphere: Bonneville Count Tops 7 Million

Cue the fireworks, the shad count at Bonneville not only eclipsed the 7-million mark but topped last year’s record run by 1 million fish yesterday.

The tally at the first dam on the Columbia stands at 7,061,784, and while we’re on the back end of the return now, it could still go up by another hundred thousand or two.

A FISH PASSAGE GRAPH SHOWS THIS YEAR’S RECORD SHAD RUN (RED LINE). (FPC)

This year’s run demolished the former record, 2018’s 6,059,933 on June 21, and even with that run factored in, it is also three times larger than the 10-year average.

More shad also go through the locks and tens of millions likely spawn in the Columbia below the dam.

Combining 2019 and 2018, more have been counted at Bonneville than the previous five years together. Interestingly, this year’s run was relatively early timed while last year’s was later.

Why is this happening? I’m obviously not a biologist and it’s aggravating that Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead numbers aren’t also jumping off the charts, but it suggests better in-river spawning and rearing and ocean feeding conditions for shad than salmonids in recent years.

(If there’s good news, it’s that the sockeye run has picked up some steam since last week and will likely meet the downgraded forecast of 58,000, though whether it gets back up to the preseason prediction of 99,400 is another matter.)

How high numbers of shad may impact salmon stocks merits more study.

“I think it’s interesting — all the work we do to monitor salmon yields very little information about what shad are doing,” WDFW’s Bill Tweit told Northwest Fishletter in an interesting story. “Other than the fish ladder counts, we don’t have a real clear idea of what they’re doing.”

While the Columbia is currently closed for salmon fishing, shad are providing good fishing at Bonneville, where 244 bank anglers kept 1,136 and 10 boat anglers kept 68, according to WDFW’s mid-June weekly fishing report.

Over 2.25 million have passed McNary Dam, with nearly 350,000 of those turning right and heading up the Snake to be counted at Ice Harbor Dam.

Columbia Sockeye Run Downgraded Sharply

Columbia salmon managers have downgraded their expectations for this year’s sockeye run by nearly 42 percent, and it could come in as the smallest in a dozen years.

The Technical Advisory Committee now believe only 58,000 will return to the mouth of the big river, well below the preseason forecast of 99,400.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH CHARTS THIS YEAR’S SOCKEYE COUNT AT BONNEVILLE (RED LINE) AGAINST LAST YEAR’S (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. (FPC)

It’s the opposite direction of last year’s run, which was initially forecast at 99,000 but came in above 210,000.

So far 31,889 sockeye have been counted at Bonneville, and if a Fish Passage Center graph based on daily counts at the first dam on the Columbia is any indication, this year’s run has peaked and is on the downhill slide.

It’s a far cry from just a few years ago, when 512,455 and 651,146 sockeye entered the river, but this year’s run’s parents were also poached by the Blob’s very warm waters in early summer 2015, with large numbers likely dying in the reservoirs and Okanogan and Wenatchee Rivers well before they reached their spawning grounds.

In 2007, just 26,604 returned to the Columbia before runs mushroomed following habitat work and better flow management on the Canadian side of the Okanogan River.

There is no scheduled recreational sockeye (or summer Chinook) fishery on the mainstem this season. Preliminary figures from today’s fact sheet show a tribal platform, ceremonial and commercial catch of just under 800 sockeye so far.

Meanwhile, Lake Washington’s sockeye are also coming in low. After several 0-fish days that made the graph look not unlike a rock skipping across the water, the count has picked up, but the best case scenario is that the all-time-low forecast of 15,000 and change is topped.

Right now 1,124 of the salmon have gone through the Ballard Locks.

LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE COUNTS. (WDFW)

That system’s issues are largely linked to smolt predation in the lake and poor adult survival due to disease after the salmon swim through the warm ship canal.

But to the north on the Baker Lake system the count is tracking fairly tightly to the five-year average of just under 21,000 to the Baker River trap.

This one will be watched closely in the coming days and weeks.

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SW WA, Lower Columbia Fishing Report (6-19-19)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Lower Columbia Mainstem Sport June 10-16

Salmon and steelhead:

Bonneville bank: 5 anglers with 1 released adult Chinook and nothing else
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
I-5 area bank: 1 angler with nothing
Vancouver bank:  17 anglers with nothing
Woodland bank:  36 anglers with nothing
Kalama bank: 17 anglers with 1 jack Chinook and nothing else
Longview bank: 171 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released, 14 steelhead kept and 3 steelhead released
Cathlamet bank: 11 anglers with 2 steelhead kept and nothing else
Private boats/bank: 15 anglers with 2 steelhead kept and 1 steelhead released

Bonneville boat: 4 anglers with nothing
Camas/Washougal boat: No report
I-5 area boat:  No report
Vancouver boat:  10 anglers with 7 adult Chinook released and 2 steelhead released
Woodland boat: No report
Kalama boat:  3 anglers with nothing
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview boat:  72 anglers with 3 adult Chinook released, 19 steelhead kept and 6 steelhead released
Cathlamet boat:  4 anglers with 8 steelhead kept
Private boats/bank:  5 anglers with 2 steelhead kept

THE BIG RUN OF SHAD CONTINUES, WITH NEARLY 5.7 MILLION OVER BONNEVILLE AS OF JUNE 18, AND 1.23 MILLION AT MCNARY DAM SO FAR. THE LATTER AREA IS WHERE RENEE MORTIMER AND HER DAD PAUL CAUGHT THIS TRIO, PLUS A WALLEYE EARLIER THIS MONTH. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Shad:

Bonneville bank: 272 anglers with 1,758 kept and 151 released
Bonneville boat: 9 anglers with 97 kept and 15 released
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
Camas/Washougal boat: 5 anglers with 3 kept
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat: No report
Vancouver bank: No report
Vancouver boat:  1 angler with nothing
Woodland bank: 1 angler with nothing
Woodland boat: 4 anglers with 5 kept
Kalama bank:  No report
Kalama boat:  No report
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview bank: 1 angler with nothing
Longview boat: 6 anglers with 14 kept

Sturgeon:

Bonneville bank: No report
Bonneville boat: 4 anglers with 2 sublegals released
Camas/Washougal bank: No report
Camas/Washougal boat: No report
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat: No report
Vancouver bank: No report
Vancouver boat: 5 anglers with 20 sublegals released and 1 legal released
Woodland bank: No report
Woodland boat; No report
Kalama bank: No report
Kalama boat: No report
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat: No report
Longview bank: No report
Longview boat: 7 anglers with 2 sublegals released, 2 legals released and 1 oversize released
Cathalmet bank: No report
Cathlamet boat: No report
Chinook/Elochoman bank: No report
Chinook/Elochoman boat: No report
Ilwaco bank: No report
Ilwaco boat: No report
Ilwaco charter: No report

almon/Steelhead:

Columbia River mainstem

During Saturday’s flight 58 salmonid boats and 122 Washington bank anglers were counted from Skamokawa upstream to the I-5 Bridge.

Shad:

Effort is holding steady with nearly 400 shad anglers counted on the Washington shore just below Bonneville Dam during Saturday’s flight (6/15).  Yesterday’s dam count (June 17) was just over 200,000 fish, which pushes the season total over 5.4 million to date.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 4 bank rods had no catch.  2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  7 bank rods had no catch.  19 boats/65 rods kept 15 steelhead and released 1 steelhead.

Tacoma Power employees recovered 51 spring Chinook adults, 10 spring Chinook jacks, 15 mini jacks, and 36 summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released six spring Chinook adults and five spring Chinook jacks into Lake Scanewa located in Randle.

To date, Tacoma Power employees have recycled 130 summer-run steelhead to the lower Cowlitz River.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,940 cubic feet per second on Monday, June 17. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 50 F.

Kalama River – 15 bank anglers had no catch.

Lewis River – 1 bank angler had no catch.  2 boats/3 rods had no catch.

Klickitat below Fisher Hill Bridge – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Klickitat above #5 Fishway – 1 bank angler had no catch.

 

  •      Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

Columbia, SW WA Fishing Report (6-12-19)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS FORWARDED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN, WDFW

Lower Columbia Mainstem Sport June 3-9

Salmon and steelhead:

Vancouver bank: 38 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released and 1 steelhead released
Woodland bank:  72 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released
Kalama bank:  33 anglers with zilch
Longview bank:  173 anglers with 1 adult Chinook released, 15 steelhead kept and 2 steelhead released
Cathlamet bank:  39 anglers with 1 Chinook jack kept and 3 steelhead kept
private boats/bank: 5 anglers with 1 steelhead kept

SHAD ARE NOW BEING CAUGHT WELL ABOVE BONNEVILLE DAM AND THE LOWER COLUMBIA. RENEE MORTIMER CAUGHT THIS ONE YESTERDAY ON THE MIDDLE RIVER WHILE FISHING WITH HER DAD AND TRI-CITIES ANGLER JERRY HAN. “WE FOUND THEM IN 14 TO 20 FEET OF WATER,” REPORTS HAN. “RUNNING SIZE 30 JET DIVERS 70 FEET BACK WITH 5 FEET OF 10-POUND LEADER TO A SILVER DICK NITE SPOON” WORKED WELL BEFORE DAM OPERATORS STOPPED SPILLING WATER OUT OF MCNARY AND THE BITE TURNED OFF. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

I-5 area boat: 1 angler with nothing
Vancouver boat:  5 anglers with nothing
Kalama boat:  4 anglers with nothing
Cowlitz boat:  No report
Longview boat:  19 anglers with 10 steelhead kept and 1 released
Cathlamet boat: 13 anglers with 11 steelhead kept and 2 released
private boats/bank:  2 anglers with 1 steelhead kept

Shad:

Bonneville bank: 215 anglers with 1,520 kept and 12 released
Bonneville boat:  15 anglers with 276 kept and 0 released
Camas/Washougal bank:  No report
Camas/Washougal boat: 4 anglers with 20 kept and 31 released
I-5 area bank: No report
I-5 area boat:  1 angler with 0 kept and 15 released
Vancouver bank:  3 anglers with a big zero
Vancouver boat:  9 anglers with 0 kept and 1 released
Woodland bank:  No report
Woodland boat:  No report
Kalama bank:  No report
Kalama boat:  21 anglers with 57 kept and 11 released
Cowlitz bank: No report
Cowlitz boat:  No report
Longview bank:  No report
Longview boat: 9 anglers with 57 kept and 0 released

Sturgeon:

Chinook/Elochoman bank: 69 anglers with 2 sublegals and 2 oversize released
Kalama boat: 5 anglers with 2 legals, 1 sublegal and 2 oversize released
Cathlamet boat:  35 anglers with 19 sublegals and 6 oversize released
Chinook/Elochoman boat:  458 anglers with 105 legals kept, and 135 sublegals and 238 oversize released
Ilwaco boat:  132 anglers with 20 legals kept and 13 sublegals and 41 oversize released
Charter boats: 118 anglers with 54 legals kept and 42 sublegals and 280 oversize released

Columbia River Tributaries

Salmon/Steelhead:

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River mainstem

Bank and boat anglers are catching steelhead from Longview downstream to Cathlamet.

Shad:

On the Washington shore over 850 bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam were counted on last Saturday’s flight.  Yesterday’s (June 10) dam count was close to 355,000 which brings the season total up to nearly 3.9 million to date.

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River– 6 bank anglers kept 3 steelhead.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 15 bank rods kept 2 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  8 bank rods released 1 steelhead.  18 boats/46 rods kept 17 steelhead.

Tacoma Power employees recovered 49 spring Chinook adults, 10 spring Chinook jacks, 22 summer-run steelhead adults, two winter-run steelhead adults, and one cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released eight spring Chinook adults and five spring Chinook jacks into Lake Scanewa located in Randle and they released one cutthroat trout into the Tilton River in Morton.

To date, Tacoma Power employees have recycled 96 summer-run steelhead to the lower river.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,960 cubic feet per second on Monday, June 10. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 50 F.

Kalama River 44 bank anglers kept 2 Chinook, 2 steelhead and released 2 steelhead.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Lewis River – 2 bank anglers had no catch.  3 boats/4 rods kept 1 steelhead.

Klickitat below Fisher Hill Bridge – 3 bank anglers kept 1 Chinook jack.

Klickitat above #5 Fishway – 8 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods released 2 steelhead.

 

  •      Tributaries not listed: Creel checks not conducted.

 

Pikeminnow Sport – Reward Fishery Program:

The program operates from May 1 to September 30 in the lower Columbia River (mouth to Priest Rapids Dam) and the Snake River (mouth to Hells Canyon Dam).  http://www.pikeminnow.org/

Bonneville Shad Count Skyrocketing; Will It Top 2018’s Record 6.1 Million?

Updated: 8:45 a.m., June 7, 2019 with more comments from the Army Corps of Engineers

A record set just last year at Bonneville could soon be broken as the Columbia River’s shad count has surged to highs never seen so early.

Through Thursday, June 5, a whopping 2,875,519 have been tallied at the dam, with 86 percent of those fish — 2.5 million — coming in just the past seven days, a meteoric rise captured by a Fish Passage Center graph.

A FISH PASSAGE GRAPH SHOWS HOW QUICKLY THE 2019 SHAD RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM RAMPED UP (RED LINE) VERSUS LAST YEAR’S RECORD RUN (BLUE LINE) AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. (FPC)

The run so far has already topped the 10-year average overall return, hit 2.5 million fish four days faster than the next closest run, and set a new best seven-day count ever.

One observer thinks that 2018’s high mark of 6.1 million could be exceeded by 5 million, give or take, at this pace.

However, it’s also early and unclear if the 2019 return will exhibit the multiple peaks across much of June that other years’ returns have. If it doesn’t, this rocket could fall short.

This morning Jeffrey Henon, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District, says the contractor that performs the fish counts for federal dam operators was asked to double check the numbers.

He said that 250,000 shad is the daily capacity of a “crowder” device at the fish-counting station, and counts above that can diminish the accuracy.

In June 2017, what at first appeared to be a 497,000-fish day was revised to 247,366 after a “a technical glitch in (the Corps’) count recording system” was corrected for.

But a short while later Henon called back to say the review had been finished.

“Bottom line, the numbers are accurate,” Henon said.

A CHART SHOWS ALL THE YEARS SINCE 1938 THAT THE SHAD COUNT AT BONNEVILLE HAS EXCEEDED 2.5 MILLION, THE DATE THAT MARK WAS FIRST HIT, EACH RUN’S TOP SEVEN-DAY STRETCH AND THE FINAL RUN SIZE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It also represents good news for the fishermen who gather on the bank below Bonneville to drift shad darts along bottom, or anchor on seams below there and well downriver to run Dick Nites and other small spoons behind lead droppers.

The bony fish are played for sport and quite a few are taken home to be canned or used for sturgeon or crab bait.

In his outdoor report yesterday, Terry Otto at The Columbian in Vancouver noted that 1,730 were kept last weekend by 212 anglers on the Washington bank in the gorge, with fish also being caught in the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day Pools.

Nearly 180,000 are already above McNary Dam, over 5,000 are above Ice Harbor on the Snake.

According to the 2019 WDFW and ODFW joint staff report for Columbia spring and summer fisheries, last year’s sport kept catch of 250,000 shad below Bonneville was the highest on record. With low market demand, commercial fisheries are minimal.

Washington anglers won’t need a license to fish for them this Saturday and Sunday as it’s Free Fishing Weekend. There is no size, daily or possession limit on shad.

SHAD SWIM PAST A WINDOW AT BONNEVILLE DAM. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

Not much is known about the Columbia’s shad or where they go in the Pacific, much less why their returns are surging.

“I don’t have a great answer for that, and I’m not sure anyone does,” says ODFW’s Tucker Jones, who manages the big river for Oregon.

While he and much of the rest of Northwest anglerdom would probably prefer to see daily Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead counts as astronomical as those we’re seeing with shad, the nonnative species that feeds on plankton throughout its anadromous lifecycle may be benefiting in part from warmer waters and ocean conditions that negatively impacted salmonids.

While 2004’s and 2005’s big shad runs occurred in years that also saw high overall Chinook returns, that coincidence didn’t repeat last year nor is it expected to this year.

Jones says there’s no research backing this up, but it’s possible that young shad and young salmon could be competing for the same forage in the Columbia and ocean before Chinook and coho switch to a different diet as they grow larger.

LOWER COLUMBIA SHAD COLLECT IN A COOLER DURING A PAST RUN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Per a species profile put together by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, from 10 million to 20 million shad may annually actually enter the Columbia, with most spawning below Bonneville, meaning the dam count reflects a fraction of the overall run.

Shad can also bypass the counting windows by going through the locks.

Even if no other shad crossed the dam this year, 2019 would still go down as 10th best since shad began to be tallied in 1946, primarily on the strength of the last seven days, which includes the third best one-day count.

While Wednesday’s 412,448 shad was nothing to shake a stick at, the largest daily passages on record occurred on June 5 and 6, 2003, when 504,724 and then 520,664 were tallied.

How high will this year’s run go? Stay tuned.

ELLIE, BOO BOO AND McKENNA SHOW OFF A PAIR OF COLUMBIA RIVER SHAD CAUGHT SEVERAL SEASONS AGO NEAR KALAMA. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

DFWs To Talk Proposed Sturgeon Reg Changes For Gorge Pools, Reach, Snake

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

State fish managers are hosting a series of public meetings in May and June to discuss sturgeon fishing regulations in Washington.

DAVID KASPER BATTLES ONE OF A NUMBER OF STURGEON HE AND TWO FRIENDS HOOKED IN THE SWIRLING CURRENTS BELOW MCNARY DAM EARLIER THIS MONTH, WATERS THAT COULD SEE NEW RULES TO PROTECT SPAWNERS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) have scheduled public meetings at the following locations:

* The Dalles, Oregon: 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 22, at the ODFW screen shop, 3561 Klindt Dr., The Dalles.

* Kennewick: 6 to 8 p.m, Tuesday, June 11, at the Benton PUD building, 2721 W. 10th Ave., Kennewick.

*Hermiston, Oregon: 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 12, at the Hermiston Community Center, 415 S. Hwy 395, Hermiston.

An additional meeting in Montesano will also be announced at a later date.

Among the topics of discussion are possible rule changes meant to improve conservation efforts and increase the abundance and survival of mature spawning-size sturgeon.

The proposed regulations are also part of WDFW’s ongoing efforts to simplify fishing rules.

“In the past several years, the agency has been moving toward rule simplification as one of the primary objectives of our regulations,” said Laura Heironimus, sturgeon unit lead with WDFW. “This effort, combined with recent biological information, offered an opportunity to take a fresh look at sturgeon regulations around the state.”

Discussion topics and management recommendations include:

* Extending the dates of all sturgeon spawning sanctuaries in the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam, and in the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, through Aug. 31. Most of these spawning sanctuaries are currently in effect from May 1 through July 31.

* Extending the area of the spawning sanctuaries on the Columbia River below McNary and Priest Rapids dams.

* Closing sturgeon retention fishing within McNary Reservoir, inclusive of the lower Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam and the Hanford Reach below Priest Rapids Dam, due to a lack of population monitoring information.

In addition to input received at public meetings, WDFW will collect comments online and by mail. A webpage to collect public comments will be available soon. Following the public comment period, fish managers expect to brief the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in October on the resulting proposed regulations.

IDFG Halts Clearwater Springer Fishery; WDFW Closes Clarkston Area Of Snake

Editor’s note: Updated 2:50 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Idaho salmon managers are closing the two-day-a-week spring Chinook fishery on the Clearwater system because not enough fish are returning to cover eggtake needs, and Washington followed suit in the Clarkston area.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER GRAPH SHOWS THE 2019 SPRING CHINOOK RUN AT BONNEVILLE DAM (RED LINE) SO FAR. BLUE LINE IS 2018 AND BLACK LINE IS THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. OVER THE PAST DECADE, AN AVERAGE OF 111,686 SPRINGERS HAVE BEEN COUNTED AT THE DAM AS OF MAY 13, BUT THIS YEAR’S TALLY IS JUST 38,415. (FPC)

IDFG says it’s possible that the season could reopen later in May depending on dam counts, but returns at Bonneville took a downturn the past seven days after reaching a high of 4,807 last Tuesday.

So far, only 38,415 springers have been tallied at the first blockage of the Columbia, just 35 percent of the 10-year average.

“Based on the number of PIT tagged fish passing over Bonneville Dam, fisheries managers are projecting that not enough Chinook will return to hatcheries in the Clearwater River basin to meet brood needs. However, dam counts and PIT tag detections have been fluctuating and there’s some uncertainty to the actual size of the run,” IDFG said in a press release out today.

The agency said that typically by May 22 four-fifths of the Clearwater run should have gone over the dam and by then officials should know if enough are returning to reopen the season.

“Currently, the number of fish returning to Rapid River Hatchery is projected to be high enough for the fisheries to remain open in the lower Salmon River and Little Salmon River,” IDFG states.

Eric Barker of the Lewiston Morning Tribune broke the news that WDFW was also considering closing the Clarkston area of Washington’s Snake, and that has come to pass.

“This section of the Snake River is adjacent to the Clearwater River. Spring chinook salmon returns to the Clearwater are lower than preseason estimates, and this closure is necessary to protect hatchery brood stock within the Clearwater,” the agency said in an emergency rule-change notice.

That part of the river has only been open one weekend so far.

The waters near Little Goose Dam remain open, per the e-reg,

Last week, Oregon and Washington salmon managers granted two more days of fishing in Columbia Gorge pools up to the state line, but at the urging of anglers, guides and upstream tribes did not add any more time on the lower river.

They planned to provide an update on the run tomorrow.

Spill Test Set To Begin On Columbia, Snake; Could Validate Benefits For Outmigrating Smolts

Federal, state and tribal officials have agreed to a three-year trial to see if increasing spill down the Columbia and Snake Rivers can “significantly boost” outmigrating salmon and steelhead smolt numbers.

WATER SURGES THROUGH BONNEVILLE DAM IN THIS JUNE 2014 CORPS OF ENGINEERS PHOTO. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

It’s already believed to, but the deal will allow for more flexible spring operations at eight dams to test the idea beginning next year through 2021, according to a report in the Lewiston Tribune.

“Collaboration is key to this new approach to Columbia River system management. Working together, the region’s states, tribes, and federal agencies have developed an approach that demonstrates environmental stewardship and affordable sustainable energy are not mutually exclusive,” reads a joint statement from “key supporters” of the agreement.

The parties include the Nez Perce Tribe, Oregon, Washington, BPA, Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation. The states of Idaho and Montana are also on board with it.

The trial will include the four Lower Snake dams in Washington and the four on the shared Columbia between Washington and Oregon.

Both states will need to “harmonize” how they measure total dissolved gas measured below the spillways, with Washington’s Department of Ecology needing to up its allowance by early April and consider boosting it to 125 percent for tests in 2020.

A 2017 report by the Fish Passage Center says that “increasing spill for fish passage within the safe limits of 125% total dissolved gas has a high probability of improving smolt to adult return rates.”

The more fish, the more for fishermen of all fleets to catch and orcas to eat as well as escaping to spawn in the wild.

“It’s incremental progress at time when Columbia River spring Chinook are projected to return at very low numbers,” said spill advocate Liz Hamilton at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who added that it was “hardly the bold action we were seeking in (Governor Jay Inslee’s) Orca task force prey work group.”

She said NSIA will be watching closely, especially as dissolved gas levels are ramped up to the 125 percent benchmark.

“It can’t happen soon enough,” she said.

But concerns have been raised that spilling water will reduce electrical generation capacity in the hydropower system, and according to outdoor reporter Eric Barker’s piece in the Tribune, this week’s agreement was panned by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who also introduced a bill in the House this year against it.

In early 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon, who has been overseeing a long-running case over Columbia salmon and dam management, had ordered spill to occur.

 

Managers Look For Ways To Reopen Lower Columbia For Coho

Don’t put those lures away just yet, Columbia salmon anglers.

Washington managers say they’re looking to see if they can reopen a large section of the lower river for coho, but it depends on Snake-bound Chinook getting out of the way first and federal buy-in.

COHO RETENTION HAD BEEN SCHEDULED TO CONTINUE DEEP INTO FALL ON THE COLUMBIA BUT WILL CLOSE EARLY DUE TO CONCERNS ABOUT LOW RETURNS OF CHINOOK. (CHRIS SPENCER)

The good news comes after a sharply downgraded fall king forecast earlier this month put nontreaty fisheries on that ESA-listed stock over allowable impacts by half a percentage point, leading to the big river being shut down to salmon fishing all the way from Buoy 10 to the Tri-Cities.

Yet as Idaho Chinook begin to clear the Lower Columbia, angling has already been greenlighted in side channels at the mouth starting this coming Monday, and more water below Bonneville could be reopened as well.

“We know there are healthy numbers of harvestable coho returning to the Columbia over the next month that could be harvested, so we are making every effort to explore the options,” said WDFW Fish Program head Ron Warren in an unusual statement posted to the agency’s website yesterday.

He added that while managers will be going over all of the fisheries, he didn’t anticipate that the river above the dam will be reopened.

October does produce coho below Bonneville, but not like above there as late stocks return to east Gorge tribs like the Klickitat River next month and in November.

This month’s “rare” closure of the Columbia displeased anglers who have otherwise enjoyed stellar salmon seasons this decade.

And they want to raise our fees for next year?” Timothy Hermsen posted on our Facebook page in response to the news.

But they [just] opened the mouth of the Deshutes … makes sense … SMFH,” added Troy Broders.

And Jamie N Travis Larson theorized, Hanford Reach is going to get a whole lot busier.”

Yes, but even there the limit has been reduced to one adult king a day.

The upriver bright run, which returns to the Reach and Idaho, was originally forecast to come in at 205,060, but last week was downgraded to 122,600 fish, “60% of the preseason forecast,” and it potentially could end up as “the lowest return since 2007,” according to a fact sheet.

Accrued impacts by recreational and nontreaty commercial fishermen on Snake wilds hit 8.73 percent; the allowable rate at this runsize was 8.25 percent.

Warren said that keeping the river open, even under rules requiring kings to be released, would have been a violation of the Endangered Species Act because of potential additional mortalities.

“It is a rare event to exceed an ESA impact limit, and we take this apparent overage very seriously,” he said in what also reads in part as a mea culpa, the second offered by top salmon managers for the fall season on the Columbia. “Fishery managers take great care to plan fisheries that remain within the federally allowed ESA limit, and we will be considering changes to our management to avoid repeating this situation. After all, we expect project proponents and others whose actions affect salmon to adhere to ESA requirements, and we have the same expectations for our own areas of responsibility.”

This year’s preseason prediction was a far cry from recent ones, when as many as 954,100 fall Chinook were counted at Bonneville and over 1.3 million entered the Columbia.

Warren blamed the low numbers on 2015’s drought and the Blob, the effects of which lingered as this year’s fish were in the North Pacific, and he said that 2019 could see poor returns too due to the age structure of the run, comprised largely of 4-year-old fish.

But in the meanwhile, there’s a chance anglers will be able to get back on the lower river this fall as late coho roll upstream.

“For that to happen, fishery managers must be able to demonstrate that ESA-listed Snake River wild fish are no longer likely to be caught or handled in the fishery,” Warren explained.

Coded-wire tag data shows that angling near the mouth of the Columbia has “virtually no impact” on listed upriver kings after September’s third week, allowing for SAFE zones to reopen to recs and comms.

He said that WDFW and ODFW will coordinate with federal overseers to open “individual fisheries” where appropriate as number crunching shows it’s possible.

It Wasn’t That Long Ago …

Man, what a difference three years makes.

On this day in 2015 I posted* that Columbia River salmon managers had upped their fall Chinook forecast to a staggering 1,095,900.

ANGLERS ENJOYED SUPERB FALL CHINOOK FISHING ON THE COLUMBIA SYSTEM IN 2015 AS A RECORD 1.3 MILLION RETURNED, BUT THIS YEAR WE ARE SEEING THE OPPOSITE END OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE SALMON CYCLE SWING. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

They were off by a mile — 210,000 miles.

The final estimate is that 1,305,600 upriver brights and tules made it to Buoy 10 that year.

Of those, 954,140 were counted at Bonneville, the most on record.

And more than all but two other entire annual returns of Chinook — i.e., springers, summers and fall fish — at the dam since counts began in 1938.

The fishing was preposterous — 36,535 kings kept at Buoy 10, 41,525 on the Lower Columbia, 13,260 from Bonneville to Highway 395. Treaty and NT comms got their shares.

We were all smiles — our smiles couldn’t have been any wider or we would have broken our faces.

“These are the good ol’ days for Chinook, ladies and gentlemen,” I wrote later that month.

CRITFC FISHERIES TECHNICIAN AGNES STRONG HOLDS A COLUMBIA RIVER FALL CHINOOK TRAPPED PRIEST RAPIDS HATCHERY DURING THE 2015 RUN. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AGNES STRONG)

Looking back, it was the culmination of three outstanding years of salmon fishing, but there were troubling signs, other blogs I wrote that month show.

Sept. 23: Columbia Early Coho Forecast Reduced Sharply; Snake King Return On Record Pace: “Even as what could be a record return of Snake River fall Chinook heads for Idaho, Columbia salmon managers took the fishbonker to this year’s prediction for early-run coho, smacking it hard from an expected 140,000 to just 27,000 past Bonneville.”

Sept. 15: Clearwater Coho A No-go, IDFG Announces: This year’s run of coho up the Columbia is not living up to expectations, at least not yet.”

Sept. 11: No Plans To Halt State Humpy Fishery On Skagit: “Initial netting by the Upper Skagits turned up just 10 percent of the expected catch during what is typically the peak of the run of the odd-year fish.”

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.

A FISH PASSAGE CENTER SHOWS THE 2018 FALL CHINOOK RUN AT BONNEVILLE (RED LINE) VERSUS LAST YEAR AND THE 10-YEAR AVERAGE. (FPC)

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.