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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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