Record-smashing numbers of Chinook salmon are heading up the Columbia River and may continue for several more days, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sept. 12.
Salmon have distinct spawning patterns, such as those adults that migrate upstream in the spring and those migrating in the fall. This record number of fish is part of the fall migration.
“Fish have been counted at Bonneville Dam since it began operating in 1938, but we have never seen numbers like the 68,000 Chinook that passed the dam Sept. 9,” said Ben Hausmann, senior fish biologist at Bonneville Dam. “The highest number we have in our records was just more than 44,500 on Sept. 8, 1942.”
The fish count began increasing in mid-August and by Aug. 27 the numbers jumped to just over 11,000, Hausmann said. "We were very pleased to see a pulse of high numbers – between 24,000 and 36,000 by Aug. 29. We were thrilled the record fell on Sept. 7 when almost 53,000 Chinook were counted, and then it went even higher on Sept. 9 – these numbers are amazing!"
There is no way to determine how long these record-breaking Chinook counts will continue, but biologists believe it could continue through the weekend. No one can explain why the fish migration has been so large, but it is an awesome sight to see.
“We love watching the visitors’ reactions when they first come around the corner and see the number of fish in the viewing windows,” Hausmann said. “If you want to see record-breaking numbers of fish, come to Bonneville’s visitor centers soon.”
To reach the Washington Shore Visitor Center, travel on Washington State Route 14 to milepost 39, then turn onto Dam Access Road, about one mile west of the dam, or three miles west of the Bridge of the Gods. Follow the signs to the visitor center.
To reach the Bradford Island Visitor center, take exit 40 off Interstate 84. Both visitor centers are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. While on the Oregon shore, visitors also can stop by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Fish Hatchery and catch a glimpse of Herman, the 10-foot long sturgeon.
For more information about Bonneville Lock and Dam, call 541-374-8820 or visit www.nwp.usace.