News and information from our partners

Large Chinook run is on its way

Fall Chinook rush upriver in this Sept. 9 image from a fish camera monitoring fish passage at Bonneville Dam, on the Washington shore. After a late start, thousands of fish began moving upriver over the weekend.

Online fish camera
Fall Chinook rush upriver in this Sept. 9 image from a fish camera monitoring fish passage at Bonneville Dam, on the Washington shore. After a late start, thousands of fish began moving upriver over the weekend.

UPDATE: In what may be a record day, 67,024 adult Chinook and 5,447 jack crossed Bonneville Dam on Sunday, Sept. 7.

Images from the Oregon and Washington fish ladder cameras at Bonneville are here. Fish cameras. Images are updated every few minutes.

Find Current fish counts online.

Northwest Sportsman's blog has update here.

Large Chinook run appears to be late timed

Fall Chinook salmon fish count at Columbia River hydro project thus far in the 2014 season are lagging, but sport and commercial fishers alike are hopeful that a burst of fish is in the offing that could lift the run to record proportions.

Fall Chinook passage at Bonneville Dam, one sure measure of fish presence, was “significantly less than expectations” based on past years’ run timing, according to a Sept. 3 joint staff report prepared by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. The count through Tuesday was 119,773 fall Chinook, which the staff report said was well shy of the expectations (313,000 fish) through that date.

About 61 percent of the overall fall Chinook return to the river is expected to be “upriver fall Chinook.” The upriver fall Chinook are headed for hatcheries and spawning grounds upstream of Bonneville in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. They include the URB, Bonneville Pool Hatchery tules and pool upriver brights. Bonneville Dam is about 146 river miles from the Columbia’s mouth at the Columbia.

The counts have been climbing in recent days, but even Wednesday’s count of 24,855 adult fall Chinook only lifted the season’s count through Wednesday to 144,628. That’s off the pace set last year – 260,775 through Sept. 3 – when a record number of fall Chinook returned to the mouth of the Columbia.

The 2013 total return, including lower river fish, was 1,268,400 adults. This year’s tally through Sept. 3 is slightly above the 10-year average through that date, which is 114,612.

Both commercial and sport fishers testifying at a Wednesday Columbia River Compact/joint state sport hearing said hope of a record return is not lost.

“The river is stuffed with salmon. The ocean is filled with king salmon,” commercial fisherman Jason Lake said of reported high catch in the near ocean and in parts of the lower Columbia.

Abnormally high water temperatures in the lower Columbia are likely stalling the fishes’ upriver movement, he said. With cooler nights, the water temperatures should drop and prompt a rush over the next few weeks.

“The fish are just going to be piling over that dam,” Lake said.

Based on the 10-year average, half of the upriver run will have passed over Bonneville by Sept. 8.

“The data shows a pretty tight range. There’s not a lot of variance,” the WDFW’s Robin Ehlke told John North and Guy Norman Thursday. North and Norman represented, respectively, the ODFW and WDFW directors at the Compact/sport hearing. The Compact sets commercial seasons on the Columbia where the river makes up the two states’ border.

Since 2002 that 50 percent passage point has been as early as Sept. 3 and as late as Sept. 11.

During last year’s return a record daily count of 63,870 was recorded on Sept. 9, and followed by a count of 56,044 on Sept. 10. A total of 91,000 fall Chinook were counted over the three days leading up to the record count.

So far this year commercial gill netters have caught 44,500 fall Chinook during 13 fishing periods in Zones 4-5 from Aug. 3-Sept. 2. The lower end of zone 4 is at the Lewis River at Woodland, Wash., upstream to Beacon Rock, which is about four miles downstream of Bonneville Dam.

More than a third of that harvest – 17,287 – occurred during the last of those 13 fishing periods early this week.

That catch was only about half of the 86,400 expected during August’s “early fall” season. But requests made Wednesday for additional fishing time was this week was denied.

“Given Chinook passage to date, the increasing abundance of fall Chinook in Zones 4-5, high catch rates and a slightly higher than expected LRH stock component, no additional fishing periods are recommended at this time,” the staff report says. Impacts to Lower River Hatchery fall Chinook tules are limited in order to protect wild fish that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

More fishing this week “could dip into LRH that are needed for September,” North said. If used up, LRH impacts could force slimmed down Chinook and coho harvest during the “late fall” commercial fishing season, which is now scheduled to begin Sept. 14.

Norman said fishing now “is a risk to maximizing the amount of upriver brights that could be caught in September.”

“I think this run is late timed,” Norman said of the long awaited upriver fall Chinook run. The U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet Monday, and again Wednesday, to assess the status of fall chinook and coho salmon and steelhead runs.

Commercial fisherman Les Clark agreed with others in the audience who feel the fall Chinook is large but late.

“If those counts go up like last year we’re going to need to go in immediately. We need to harvest those fish,” Clark said.

“They are starting to move. Those fish could make that up in a week,” Clark said of counts that currently lag behind last year’s.

Federal, state and tribal officials this year predicted earlier this year that the 2014 fall chinook adult return to the mouth of the Columbia River would total a record 1,510,600 adult fish. Such a return would be 119 percent of the 2013 record actual return (1,268,400) and 254 percent of the 2004-2013 average return (595,200).

That 2014 preseason forecast was expected to include 103,200 adult BPH tules and 919,000 URB adults. An URB return of that size would be nearly three times (295 percent) greater than the 2004-2013 average.

Included in the URB forecast is the Snake River wild fall chinook forecast of 61,000 adult fish, which would be 424 percent the 2004-2013 average, and the highest return on record (since construction of the lower Snake River dams was completed in the mid-1970s).

The MCB preseason forecast includes 45,000 Bonneville upriver brights, 1,900 lower river brights and 297,300 pool upriver brights. The BUB and LRB forecasts would each be about 120 percent of average, and the PUB forecast is nearly five times (491 percent) greater than average and would be a record-breaking return.

Bright stocks represent 87 percent of the total forecast. The LRH forecast of 100,700 fish is similar to last year’s return and slightly greater than the 2004-2013 average (81,800). The LRW forecast of 33,400 adults is 238 percent of the 2004-2013 average of 14,000 fish.

Meanwhile, anglers fishing a section of the lower Columbia River will have one extra day to retain unmarked fall Chinook salmon this month under an agreement reached Wednesday by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

That agreement allows anglers fishing from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upriver to the Warrior Rock line to retain either a marked or unmarked chinook through Sunday, Sept. 7 before a new rule takes effect requiring the release of all unmarked chinook. Tongue Point is located just upstream of Astoria, Ore. Warrior Rock is near the downstream tip of Sauvie Island just downstream of the Portland-Vancouver area.

The agreement delays the start of the marked-only period by one day, said Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“This year’s fall Chinook run has been coming in more slowly than expected, easing fishing pressure on wild fish,” Roler said. “That allows us to ease up a bit on our harvest restrictions and still meet established conservation guidelines.”

Hatchery-reared salmon are marked for identification by clipping the fatty adipose fin near their tail. Wild salmon are generally not marked.

Through Sept.14, the daily catch limit for anglers fishing in the Tongue Point to Warrior Rock area is two adult salmon, or two hatchery steelhead, or one of each – but only one Chinook salmon. However, all unmarked Chinook must be released Sept. 8-14.

The retention of all Chinook is prohibited (including Chinook jacks) in the same area Sept. 15-30 with a daily bag limit is two adult salmonids.

From Oct. 1-Dec. 31retention of Chinook is allowed (fin-clipped or not) on Tongue Point-to-Warrior Rock reach. The daily bag limit is two adult salmonids. The daily bag limit for jack salmon is five fish. Only Chinook jack (fin-clipped or not) may be retained.

From Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 the retention of adipose fin-clipped coho salmon and adipose fin-clipped steelhead is allowed. Clipped coho jacks may also be retained.

Catch estimates for the Buoy 10 recreational fishery near the mouth of the Columbia include 23,900 chinook kept (6,500 released) from 74,100 angler trips during Aug 1-29. Estimated catch during the Aug. 30-Sept. 1 mark-selective fishery is 2,900 chinook kept (5,000 released) from 8,600 angler trips.

That fishery is now closed for Chinook retention as scheduled.

Coded wire tag data examined to date indicates stock composition is higher for “lower river hatchery” fall Chinook tule run than expected preseason (21 percent v 12 percent). Total fishery Because the percentage of LRH tules is higher than expected, thus driving us mortality estimates. Wild LRH tules are protected under the Endangered Species Act via impact limits.

Chinook mortality is estimated at 30,020 (66 percent of preseason), but LRH impacts are 101 percent of the preseason allocation for the Buoy 10 fishery.

Estimated sport coho harvest through Sept. 1 totals 32,200 fish (including release mortality) compared to the 56,500 fish available.

Catch estimates for the lower Columbia River recreational fishery include 4,700 Chinook kept (100 released) from 59,000 angler trips during Aug 1-31. Catch to date for this fishery is well below expectations; however catch rates are expected to improve.

Columbia Basin Bulletin The Columbia Basin Bulletin e-mail newsletter is produced by Intermountain Communications of Bend, Oregon and supported with Bonneville Power Administration fish and wildlife funds through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Articles republished by The Dalles Chronicle with permission.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment


Information from The Chronicle and our advertisers (Want to add your business to this to this feed?)