It took five years for King of the Reach live-capture derby anglers to tally 10 million fertilized salmon eggs collected for a fall Chinook broodstock hatchery program on the mid-Columbia.
The sixth edition could yield that many and change alone, thanks to the “biggest turnout ever for volunteers and fish.”
WDFW fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth says the 648 bucks and 562 hens caught on the Hanford Reach by 277 fishermen in 77 boats and delivered to Grant County’s Priest Rapids Hatchery have the potential to produce 12,616,000 fertilized eggs, if all the male and female fish mixing is done just right.
“Basically 100 percent of the Priest Rapids and Ringold Springs Hatchery production for next year’s release would have a wild parent,” Hoffarth says. “Real life, with holding mortality and other factors WDFW might be able to reach 70 percent of production, which is huge.”
He says that not too long ago, just 10 percent of the hatchery kings had at least one wild parent.
The derby is a joint state-utility-Coastal Conservation Association of Washington project that uses anglers and guides to collect wild upriver brights in the Reach to improve the stock’s fitness and ensure that hatchery fish remain genetically similar to the natives in the free-flowing stretch of the Columbia.
It occurs after the fall fishing season is closed. Participants are required to register as volunteers, and boat captains need fish transporting permits and a way to haul the salmon to collection points, either in a livewell or a big cooler with a pump.
The previous five derbies saw a total of 2,111 fall kings brought in. Before this year, the most brought in was in 2015 when 510 were taken to the hatchery, according to Hoffarth.
As for the King of the Reach, that’s guide Tyler Stahl who brought in 76 kings.
Fellow guides TJ Hester and John Plugoff turned over 66 and 59, respectively.
On Facebook, CCA-Washington called the derby “nothing short of extraordinary. Loads of fish, tons of people, and fun all around.”
Rob Phillips, a columnist for the Yakima Herald, participated and shared his thoughts.