Tag Archives: upriver bright chinook

More 2020 Columbia Salmon Forecasts, Outlooks Posted; Sockeye A Brighter Spot

Columbia salmon managers are rolling out more 2020 forecasts and sockeye might be a bright spot next year.

Nearly a quarter million sockeye are expected to return to the big river, with just under 202,000 of those headed for the relatively cool Brewster Pool before departing up the Okanogan/Okanagan.

TYLER FLETCHER SHOWS OFF A PAIR OF SOCKEYE CAUGHT AT WELLS DAM DURING 2014’S FISHERY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

While forecasters are still dialing in their sockeye prognostication skills, it would be a significant uptick over 2019’s return of 63,222 against a forecast of 94,400. It would also be the eighth largest run since 1980, though still only a third of 2014’s record year.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye anglers could also see a significant bump from this year’s actual return of just 7,900; the prediction calls for 39,400.

As for all-important Columbia spring Chinook, the 2020 forecasts leave as much to be desired as last week’s news of very low predictions for the Cowlitz, Kalama, Wind, Drano, etc.

Managers expect 81,700 upper Columbia and Snake springers, which is about 10,000 more than actually returned in 2019 but also 17,600 less than were forecast.

Along with the annual 30 percent buffer to protect against overforecasting, this spring’s mainstem fishery was constrained by very low returns to the Cowlitz and Lewis, which led to a closure of the Columbia below Warrior Rock to protect springers headed to those two tributaries. Returns to both are again expected to be low.

The Willamette spring Chinook forecast is for 40,800, up a bit from this year’s forecast which didn’t pan out, with only 27,292 back.

The overall forecast of 135,800 springers to the mouth of the Columbia is the fewest back to 1999.

The Columbia summer Chinook forecast is slightly better than last year, with 38,300 expected, roughly 2,000 more than were forecast in 2019 but which also led to no opportunities to target them until later in the season and only in the upper river above Wenatchee.

Anglers are increasingly skeptical of the forecasts, but managers continue to point to very poor ocean conditions as having a strong influence on numbers of returning salmon.  The Blob is back in the North Pacific, maybe not as strong as 2014 and 2015, but still likely impacting prey and marine habitat of kings, sockeye, coho and other stocks.

Managers also put out preliminary word on fall Chinook and coho expectations, and how 2019 shaped up:

2019 Preliminary Returns
• Adult fall Chinook return was predicted to be 349,600 fish.
• Preliminary return is slightly above the forecast.
• Bright jack return appears to be improved over 2018. Tule jack return appears to be slightly improved over 2018.

2020 Outlook
• Bright stocks should be similar to the 2019 preliminary return.
• Tule stocks should be similar to the 2019 preliminary return.
• Ocean conditions between 2015 and 2019 were among the worst observed during the last 21 years and are likely continuing to have a strong influence on the fall Chinook return in 2020.

Columbia River Coho
• 2019 preliminary return is about 30% of the preseason forecast of 611,300.
• Coho jack return to the Columbia River is less than 50% of the recent three-year average.

Tule Chinook power ocean seasons, upriver brights the inriver fisheries. In the Columbia’s Hanford Reach, 30,678 angler trips yielded a catch of 11,820 adult kings, an improvement of more then 3,100 fish over 2018, according to biologist Paul Hoffarth.

The release of the 2020 forecasts and outlooks mark the start of determining how many, if any, fish are available for harvest in the ocean and rivers and setting seasons at North of Falcon later in winter.

Columbia-Snake Steelhead Run Again Downgraded; Treaty Salmon Fishery Set

Columbia fishery managers heard more grim news about this year’s steelhead run, now forecast to come in at 71,600, the third downgrade from the preseason forecast.

WILD UNCLIPPED A- AND B-RUN STEELHEAD ARE OUTPACING HATCHERY RETURNS SO FAR AT BONNEVILLE, SOMETHING THAT “HAS NOT BEEN OBSERVED” IN THE QUARTER CENTURY OF TALLYING THE DIFFERENCE AT THE DAM. (BRIAN LULL)

Weaker than expected hatchery A-run numbers continue to largely be to blame, but B-runs, which return later and haven’t been updated, are now also “tracking below expectations.”

The preseason forecast was 118,200 As and Bs, but was dropped to 86,000 on Aug. 28 and 74,000 on Sept. 3.

Unusually, more unclipped summers have been tallied at Bonneville than clipped fish, 29,658 to 26,856 since July 1, something that “has not been observed” at the dam since managers began counting the number of adult steelhead with and without adipose fins in 1994, according to today’s fact sheet.

The new forecast calls for 35,000 unclipped steelhead.

Also troubling — though not concrete — is that Dworshak Hatchery-bound fish are “almost absent, based on PIT tags,” WDFW’s Bill Tweit said during a state-tribal conference call this morning.

PIT tags are passive integrated transponders placed in smolts at the hatchery or in the wild and which record a fish’s passage to and from the ocean.

If the steelhead run comes in at this new low forecast, it would be the worst since at least 1984.

Already, state managers have shut down retention on large sections of the Columbia, extended it in some places and reduced upriver bag limits from three to one for when the fish arrive in Southeast Washington, Northeast Oregon and Central Idaho streams.

The main thrust of today’s call, however, was to hear about CRITFC plans to hold a two-and-a-half-day tribal commercial gillnetting opener in Zone 6, the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day Pools, from 6 a.m., Monday, Sept. 16 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 18.

According to the fact sheet, it and a “late fall platform” fishery are modeled to bring the tribal harvest in the fall management period to 28,448 Chinook, including 11,794 upriver brights and 2,152 steelhead, including 425 B-runs.

The fact sheet states that at current run forecasts, that would leave 24,834 URBs for tribal fisheries. It also says that based on typical run timing, the goal of getting at least 60,000 past McNary Dam will be met.

While URBs, which spawn in the Hanford Reach and Snake River and provide sportfisheries there and in the aforementioned pools, are “tracking similar to pre-season expectations,” there is more concern about Columbia Gorge hatchery tule returns meeting broodstock needs.

CRITFC’s Stuart Ellis acknowledged that it “seems likely we will be quite tight” in reaching goals at Spring Creek Hatchery, but that if necessary, Bonneville Hatchery fish could be substituted as they are the same strain.

When ODFW’s John North asked other tribes, WDFW, NOAA and the public for comment on the proposed tribal opener, none was given.

State managers did query Ellis about a preliminary estimated catch of “0” steelhead during last week’s tribal Chinook fishery, to which he explained that none had been sampled, leading to the zero for that week. He also said that actual steelhead catches had been less than were being modeled.

He added that managers need to keep an eye on the Dworshak situation.

ODFW’s Jeff Whistler, who chairs the Technical Advisory Committee, which puts out run updates, said that one for A- and B-run steelhead, URBs and tules was “quite likely” to come out next Monday.

In a weekly newsletter out last Friday evening, NSIA noted that TAC was also reviewing Chinook passage at Bonneville this past Monday and that managers “have committed to acting as quickly as possible to reopen chinook fishing from Warrior Rock to Bonneville if the passage numbers warrant.”

No sport fisheries were proposed today, but next week’s update might show whether any are possible.