Ocean salmon managers are forecasting an uptick in the numbers of Columbia fall Chinook out in the Pacific compared to the 2020 preseason prognostication, but fewer Sacramento and Klamath kings.
An abundance forecast rolled out for an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife meeting this morning with stakeholders shows a total of 600,800 upriver brights, adult tules and lower river wilds expected to arrive at the mouth of the Columbia this summer and fall, about 150,000 more fish than last year’s forecast of 450,700.
As usual the strongest component are the URBs, with 460,900 expected, about 127,000 more than last year’s forecast and 16,000 more than actually did come back.
By comparison, the overall 2021 prediction for the Columbia is slightly below how many fall Chinook that managers say actually did swim past Buoy 10 in 2020 – 610,100 – on their way to hatcheries, spawning grounds and barbecues from Astoria to Hells Canyon to the Hanford Reach and elsewhere.
Still, it’s another good sign of improving ocean conditions because the forecast is above the five-year average of roughly 480,000 – runs impacted by lingering effects of marine heat waves in the North Pacific – though also below the 10-year average of approximately 723,000, a figure powered primarily by off-the-charts back-to-back-to-back runs in the mid-2010s.
And combined with the bonkers ocean Oregon Production Index coho abundance of around 1.75 million silvers, it’s more good news for salmon fishermen, especially for those heading out of ports on the North Oregon and Washington Coasts.
Meanwhile, ocean California Chinook numbers are forecast to be down over last year, with 271,000 Sacramento kings in the Pacific (202,200 fewer than last year’s forecast and about 90,000 fewer than actually were out there) and 180,700 Klamath age-3 and age-4 kings (roughly 25,000 fewer than 2020). Those figures for both stocks are better than very depressed actual abundances in the mid-2010s but well below spikes earlier in the decade.
Rogue fall kings are expected to be up, with 274,100 in the ocean, 17,200 more than forecast last year, while north-migrating Oregon Coast Chinook stocks are forecast to be “above recent year average,” hopefully a good sign following several very low years.
The figures help provide the framework for setting sport, tribal and commercial fishing seasons and quotas in the Pacific and then the rivers.
Managers will use subsets of stocks – for instance, Lower Columbia tules, Snake River wilds, some of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act – to determine exploitation and impact rates available for ocean and in-river fisheries, then split the surpluses.
More Washington salmon forecasts are due out tomorrow as WDFW unveils Puget Sound Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum expectations as North of Falcon kicks off in earnest.
Already an agency summary of 2021 Grays Harbor salmon runs shows Chehalis and Humptulips natural-origin fall Chinook coming in above spawning escapement goals, but the system’s coho not expected to do as well.