Columbia salmon managers expect a larger overall return of spring Chinook to the big river and its many tributaries next year, some 307,800 hatchery and wild fish.
That’s up from the 2022 run’s preseason forecast of 197,000 and the actual return of 274,495. If it comes to pass, it would be the most springers entering the Columbia since 2015 and just a hair or two shy of the 2010-14 average return.
Productivity for Northwest salmon has in general improved in the Pacific after a lengthy low period.
“Several ocean ecosystem indicators, especially in near-shore areas, were tracking in a manner that generally leads to low ocean survival for some salmon stocks from 2015-2017 but began to improve in 2018. These indicators include Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), upwelling, sea-surface temperature, and plankton abundance. Based on these indicators, adults returning in 2023 generally experienced improved ocean conditions during their ocean migration period,” a WDFW trib forescast out Tuesday afternoon stated.
It all means that it’s likely there should be more springers for sport anglers to catch in the Lower Columbia, gorge pools and elsewhere than this past season, but that will be formally decided over the coming months as ODFW, WDFW and others break out their management agreements and commissions’ policies, apply run-size buffering protections and consult their sliding-scale charts to come up with final allocations for the initial fishing period in late February, if recent trends continue.
The sportfishing industry will be formally briefed on the numbers tomorrow afternoon, but in the meanwhile standout figures from the forecasts originally posted to ODFW’s website and picked up on Ifish yesterday evening include:
• 41,400 kings headed to Upper Columbia tribs such as Icicle Creek and others, nearly twice as many as last year’s forecast and nearly 12,000 more than actually returned; • 85,900 spring-summers projected for Snake River streams, more than 12,000 more than predicted though about 17,000 fewer than came back; • and 71,000 to the Willamette, 20,000 more than expected and 15,500 or so more than really did return.
Expectations are also up for the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, Wind, Drano and Yakima Rivers and SAFE area springers compared to the 2022 preseason forecast.
The Upper Columbia summer Chinook forecast is also up, with 84,800 expected, over 6,000 more fish than 2022 actually saw and 28,500 more than were predicted.
After this year’s run, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Columbia sockeye forecast. It was foresoothed at 198,700 but came in at a whopping 664,935, a new record back to 1938’s creation of Bonneville Dam. This year managers are expecting 234,500, with 187,400 of those headed to the Okanogan/Okanagan and 44,300 to Lake Wenatchee, well above the Chelan County water’s escapement goal.