Tag Archives: upriver brights

Hanford Reach Angler Pines For Past Years’ Larger Returns Of 5-year-old URBs

By Rick Itami

Back in the early 1990s when I first tried my luck at catching the famous upriver bright fall Chinook salmon in the Hanford Reach of the mighty Columbia River, I was amazed to see huge fish rolling all over the river.

THE NUMBER OF 5-YEAR-OLD FALL CHINOOK RETURNING TO THE COLUMBIA RIVER’S HANFORD REACH HAS DROPPED IN RECENT YEARS. PRIOR TO 2006, ONE-THIRD OF THE RUN CAME IN AS 5’S, ON AVERAGE, BUT SINCE THEN THE PERCENTAGE HAS DROPPED TO 18. DAVE SITTON CAUGHT THIS BEAST IN 2012. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

And when I say huge, I mean salmon running in the 30- to 40-pound range. The first time I hooked one of these giants, I fought it for 20 minutes before my 30-pound-test monofilament finally snapped when I tried to horse the fish into the net.

In those days, outdoor sections of newspapers often contained photos of smiling fishermen displaying monster fall Chinook caught with regularity.

Fast forward to the present and you have a totally different scenario. You simply do not see anglers landing many really large fish as before.

Toby Wyatt, owner/operator of Reel Time Fishing (208-790-2128) and who is one of the most successful guides on the Hanford Reach, says his clients land just a few fish in the 30-plus-pound range. Most of his catch ranges in the 10- to 20-pound range. He misses getting his clients into the monsters.

So what happened to the giants of the Hanford Reach?

AUTHOR RICK ITAMI HOLDS AN UPRIVER BRIGHT FROM THIS PAST SEASON, A 12-POUND HEN. A FISH’S AGE, THE LENGTH OF TIME IT SPENDS IN THE PACIFIC AND OCEAN PRODUCTIVITY DETERMINE HOW BIG A SALMON GROWS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Paul Hoffarth, Region III fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, confirms the drop in size of fish. Surprisingly and for unknown reasons, Hoffarth says that a significant shift in the age structure of fish happened all in one year — 2006.

Prior to 2006, roughly one-third (34 percent) of the upriver brights were the big 5-year-old fish and 37 percent were 4-year-olds.

Beginning in 2006, the percentage of 5-year-olds has averaged 18 percent (with a range of 10 to 28 percent) and has never recovered.

Hoffarth does not know why the decline happened so suddenly and no studies have been done to determine a cause or causes. Therefore, no one knows if the age structure will return to pre-2006 levels.

So we anglers are left in the dark as to what the future of the upriver bright population has in store in terms of the size of fish caught. Let’s hope whatever caused the flip in the age structure of these magnificent fish will just as suddenly flip the other way.

I would love to see a river full of rolling giants again.

Hanford Reach Fall King Fishery Closing Early Next Week

Fall Chinook fishing on the Hanford Reach will stay open through Monday, giving anglers one last weekend to catch upriver brights on the free-flowing Columbia.

SPOKANE’S RICK ITAMI WAS A BIT PESSIMISTIC ABOUT FISHING FOR HANFORD REACH FALL CHINOOK, GIVEN THE LOWER RUN, BUT ONCE THERE HE FOUND WILLING BITERS, INCLUDING A 12-POUND HEN THAT WILL PROVIDE EGGS FOR HIS STEELHEADING ADVENTURES THIS WINTER AND A 10-POUND BUCK. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

While this year’s run is down and the limit has been dropped to one a day, fishermen have still been finding biting salmon.

Some have been reporting success running tuna-stuffed Brad’s Super Baits behind Pro-Trolls. They’ll probably have less competition this weekend, which is also the deer and duck opener across the state.

The Reach above the wooden powerlines at the old Hanford townsite to Priest Rapids Dam was set to close after Oct. 15, but it wasn’t clear when the waters from there down to Tri-Cities would shut down as the run continued to trickle past downstream dams.

An early October update from state fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth warned the quota might be met by Oct. 7, then another earlier this week said fishing would stay open through this Friday, Oct. 12.

“Based on the updated return estimate for natural-origin Hanford Reach fall Chinook, all adult Chinook in excess of escapement will be harvested by Oct. 15,” WDFW said in an emergency rule-change notice sent out this afternoon.

If you still want to fish the free-flowing Columbia for upriver brights — and for a good cause — sign up for late October’s 6th Annual King of the Reach derby, a three-day event that collects wild fall Chinook for the Grant County Public Utility District’s Priest Rapids Hatchery, improving the stock’s fitness and ensuring that hatchery fish remain genetically similar to the natives here.

2018 Columbia Fall Salmon Outlook, SW WA Tribs Springer Forecasts Issued

Columbia salmon managers are offering more glimpses at how 2018 returns to the big river may shape up.

Following on last week’s spring Chinook forecast, this afternoon they’ve issued outlooks for fall Chinook and coho stocks.

RETURNS OF FALL BRIGHTS TO THE HANFORD REACH ARE EXPECTED TO RETURN AT PRE-2013 LEVELS, WHICH IS TO SAY, NOT AS GOOD AS WE’VE BEEN SEEING IN RECENT SEASONS. CLAY AND WILLIAM HULL SHOW OFF ONE CAUGHT ON THE HANFORD REACH THIS YEAR. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

But where the year’s first salmon is predicted to see an uptick, it doesn’t look as positive for the year’s last major runs.

Here’s what the just-issued report says in full:

COLUMBIA RIVER FALL CHINOOK
2017 PRELIMINARY RETURNS AND
OUTLOOK FOR 2018

2017 Preliminary Returns
? Adult fall Chinook returns were predicted to be 614,000 fish.
? Preliminary returns are about three-fourths of the forecast.
? Bright stock jack returns are similar to last year.

2018 Outlook
? Bright stocks should be similar to years prior to 2013.
? Tule stocks should be less than the recent 10 year average.
? Poor ocean conditions along the Oregon and Washington coasts could potentially have negative impacts on tule fall Chinook and Coho returns.

Columbia River Coho
? 2017 preliminary return is a little over half of the preseason forecast of 319,300.
? Jack returns to the Columbia River are about 70% of the recent 3-year average.

Tule Stocks
LRH – Lower River Hatchery stock
BPH – Bonneville Pool Hatchery stock
Bright Stocks
URB – Upriver Bright stock
PUB – Pool Upriver Bright stock
BUB – Bonneville Bright stock
LRW – Lower River Wild stock
SAB – Select Area Bright stock

And in one final burst of foresoothery, WDFW’S Region 5 office put predictions for the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis: