I’m not sure if the bonkers one is the ocean coho forecast that I’m hearing, or me for sharing it without Official Sources, Quotes & Footnotes, but probably it’s a little bit of both of us.
The strong early rumor is that nearly 1.73 million silvers will be swimming off the mouth of the Columbia this season.
These are coho that will be feeding in the Pacific off the Northwest Coast before returning to streams everywhere from Cape Leadbetter – at the northern tip of Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula – south down through Oregon and beyond in late summer and fall.
Per the grapevine, the forecast breaks down as 1.6 million fish that originated – primarily – in Columbia, Oregon and California hatcheries, and 125,000 natural-origin coho from Oregon Coast streams.
It’s the largest forecast for what’s known as the “Oregon Production Index” since at least 2015 that I could immediately find, and if it’s accurate, it would be the highest actual OPI ocean coho abundance back to the late 1980s and a shade above 2014’s actual 1.724 million, which was one of the best or top-two years by sport catch for numerous Beaver State ports back through at least 2008.
Just as with the 2021 Columbia spring and summer Chinook, and sockeye forecasts that have been rolling out in recent days and months, this preseason prognostication allows managers to begin shaping fishing seasons and bag limits in upcoming discussions with stakeholders, federal overseers and others. Ocean fishermen will likely get a good whack at these coho, but many will still make it to the big river and elsewhere.
So why invest even a sliver of your fishing faith in this silver foretelling?
High jack returns to the Columbia – 25,080 at Bonneville, the most on record – and other streams last fall, likely indicate good ocean survival and feeding conditions for that year-class. How many of those “precocious” salmon come back is a big factor in forecasters’ formula.
Why leave a laughing hysterically emoji response to this blog instead?
Said formula has not exactly been known for its accuracy in recent years.
“The 2019 preseason abundance prediction of 933,500 OPIH coho was about 3 times higher than the preliminary postseason estimate of 300,500 coho.
“Since 1983, the OPIH predictor has performed well but since 2015 has over-predicted and performed poorly in most of these years.”
OPIH means Oregon Production Index public hatchery.
For what it’s worth, last year’s OPI prediction of 268,700 coho was low. The return of early-stock silvers at Bonneville on the Columbia (so, post-ocean and inriver rec and comm fisheries) alone upgraded from 33,800 to 90,000.
I’m no stranger to limbs, as I’ve gone out on the bendy ends of more than a few in my time and somehow survived broken limbs of my own to keep on writing this stuff. Before clambering out on this one, I stopped by our spice cabinet for some extra grains of salt to take with me.
They’ll either come in handy for grilling lots of coho this summer … or for rubbing in my wounds as a reminder to never ever listen to little birdies, or do another forecast story.