Brutal new forecast just out for A-run steelhead heading to Columbia Basin tribs: Managers now expect just 54,000 this year.
That’s less than half of the preseason forecast, it’s a fraction of the 10-year average and represents the fewest by a long shot since records for the stock began nearly five decades ago.
Just 33,000 hatchery and 21,000 hatchery and wild A-runs are now predicted at Bonneville Dam, according to the Technical Advisory Committee, down from the 79,100 and 33,000 initially forecast.
TAC didn’t update the B-run prediction, as those steelhead bound for Idaho tend to come in later. Still, only 1,100 wild Bs are forecast and that triggered a number of fishery restrictions this month and next.
It’s possible the revised A-run forecast could lead to actions to protect that stock, but that’s up to fishery managers.
The updated runsize is the lowest back to 1969, when records began. According to WDFW data, the next worst run of hatchery and wild A-run steelhead is 1994, when 120,971 were counted at Bonneville.
The high mark occurred in 2009, which saw over 545,000.
Managers say this year’s A-runs did very poorly in the ocean last year.
Monitoring the dam counts, daily tallies have been vacillating between 10 and 50 percent of the 10-year average since the summer counting period began July 1, but the overall count is just 21 percent of the decade-long average.
That was a hint that a jarring runsize update might be in the offing, though water temperatures at Bonneville have also been high.
Last Thursday’s reading at the forebay was just under 73.8 degrees Fahrenheit, what might be the second highest reading back through at least 2000 and 4 degrees warmer than the 10-year average for the date.
Hot water creates a thermal block that retards fish passage until rain or clouds cools it off, sometimes leading to a big pulse of steelhead and salmon.
But with today’s update, it appears that managers don’t expect much of one with this year’s steelhead run.