Welcome To The Shadosphere: Bonneville Count Tops 7 Million

Cue the fireworks, the shad count at Bonneville not only eclipsed the 7-million mark but topped last year’s record run by 1 million fish yesterday.

The tally at the first dam on the Columbia stands at 7,061,784, and while we’re on the back end of the return now, it could still go up by another hundred thousand or two.


This year’s run demolished the former record, 2018’s 6,059,933 on June 21, and even with that run factored in, it is also three times larger than the 10-year average.

More shad also go through the locks and tens of millions likely spawn in the Columbia below the dam.

Combining 2019 and 2018, more have been counted at Bonneville than the previous five years together. Interestingly, this year’s run was relatively early timed while last year’s was later.

Why is this happening? I’m obviously not a biologist and it’s aggravating that Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead numbers aren’t also jumping off the charts, but it suggests better in-river spawning and rearing and ocean feeding conditions for shad than salmonids in recent years.

(If there’s good news, it’s that the sockeye run has picked up some steam since last week and will likely meet the downgraded forecast of 58,000, though whether it gets back up to the preseason prediction of 99,400 is another matter.)

How high numbers of shad may impact salmon stocks merits more study.

“I think it’s interesting — all the work we do to monitor salmon yields very little information about what shad are doing,” WDFW’s Bill Tweit told Northwest Fishletter in an interesting story. “Other than the fish ladder counts, we don’t have a real clear idea of what they’re doing.”

While the Columbia is currently closed for salmon fishing, shad are providing good fishing at Bonneville, where 244 bank anglers kept 1,136 and 10 boat anglers kept 68, according to WDFW’s mid-June weekly fishing report.

Over 2.25 million have passed McNary Dam, with nearly 350,000 of those turning right and heading up the Snake to be counted at Ice Harbor Dam.

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