Hanford Reach Fishing Report (9-28-21), Columbia Fall Salmon Runs …

THE FOLLOWING FISHING INFORMATION WAS FORWARDED BY PAUL HOFFARTH, WDFW

Hanford Reach Fall Salmon Fishery Update (Sept 26)

Adult fall chinook counts at McNary continue to slowly decline, ~2,000 – 6,000 per day. From August 9 to September 26, 136,401 adult fall chinook have passed McNary; 4% below the 2020 return (141,882). The 2021 return is still on track for a strong return.

WITH THE HANFORD REACH FISHING “INCONSISTENTLY,” HOLDEN (CENTER) AND BUDDY AUSTIN HAN (LEFT) TEAMED UP TO HOOK AND LAND HOLDEN’S BIGGEST FISH YET YESTERDAY. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Fishing effort and harvest continues to increase in the Hanford Reach fall salmon fishery. A run update was completed this week for the Hanford Reach fall chinook return. The wild return is currently estimated at 66,842 adult chinook, similar to the preseason forecast (67,293). Based on the in-season update, harvest allocated to the Hanford Reach sport fishery is expected to be sufficient to continue the fishery with a two adult limit through the end of the scheduled season. The next in-season update will be posted October 1. The upcoming two weeks should offer the best fishing of the fall.

From September 20 through September 26, WDFW staff interviewed anglers from 718 boats (1,840 anglers) and 134 bank anglers with a harvest of 643 adult chinook, 58 jacks, and 11 coho. Boats averaged 17 angler hours per salmon, 1 salmon per boat. Bank anglers averaged 42 hours per salmon.

Based on sampling, an estimated 2,222 adult chinook, 199 chinook jacks, and 38 coho were harvested during 6,629 angler trips this past week. For the season, 6,624 adult chinook, 506 chinook jacks, and 101 coho have been harvested.

Columbia River and Hanford Reach Return Update

In addition to the US v Oregon Agreement, the Hanford Reach URB population is managed under the Hanford Reach Fall Chinook Fishery Management Plan. The population is managed to meet the Hanford Reach URB escapement goal of 31,100 to 42,000 adults (naturally spawning population). Harvest allocated to the Hanford Reach sport fishery is based on the in-season return estimates.

An in-season estimate is generated weekly beginning September 15 for the Hanford Reach wild component of the return. The estimate is generated based on current passage through the fish ladders at McNary, Ice Harbor, and Priest Rapids Dams and projected migration timing. Based on numbers through September 23, an estimated 66,842 adult, wild (natural origin) fall chinook are expected to return to the Hanford Reach.

Current harvest is 5,624 adults. At ~66,842 adults, there will be sufficient numbers of fall chinook allocated to the sport fishery to continue the fishery with a two adult limit through the end of the scheduled season. The next in-season update will be posted October 1.

The U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met on September 27, 2021 to review run size information for upriver fall Chinook, summer steelhead and coho. Based on Chinook passage at Bonneville Dam through September 26 and projected lower river harvest through December 31, TAC updated the total run-size of upriver stocks at the Columbia River mouth to 383,100 adult Chinook (81% of the preseason forecast), which is a slight upgrade from last week. This total includes 50,700 BPH tules, and 290,600 URB and 41,800 PUB brights. The downgrade of the tule and upgrade of the bright run-sizes from last week is partially due to review of previous visual stock calls for bright and tule fish observed from September 16-19 when tule/bright skin color became more difficult to distinguish. 

As of September 26, the cumulative steelhead passage at Bonneville Dam since July 1 is the lowest on record (61,221), and the cumulative unclipped steelhead passage (22,072) is the lowest since clipped/unclipped counting began in 1994. The clipped steelhead passage is 39,149 to date. The projected total A-Index steelhead passage is expected to be 54,700 (clipped A = 33,800, and unclipped A = 20,900). The projected total B-Index steelhead passage is expected to be 10,800 (clipped B = 8,900,  unclipped B = 1,900). Unclipped steelhead will be parsed into wild and hatchery unclipped components post season after the genetic data are analyzed.

TAC downgraded the projected return of early run coho (defined as those passing through September 30) to 177,000 adult fish. The pre-season forecast for coho returning to Bonneville Dam was 407,800. Through September 26, 170,263 coho have passed Bonneville Dam, which is the second-highest cumulative count to date.TAC will continue to meet weekly throughout the fall management period and will provide further updates as information becomes available.