Fishery managers have postponed the annual fishery for hatchery steelhead and jack Chinook salmon from Tongue Point upriver to the Interstate 5 Bridge that was set to begin May 16.
Lower than expected passage of spring Chinook salmon over Bonneville Dam coupled with the spring Chinook catch to date in the recreational fishery downstream of Bonneville Dam are the primary causes of the delay.
As of Monday only about 34,000 of the approximately 160,000 forecast spring Chinook salmon had been counted at Bonneville Dam. On the same date in 2015, 109.650 adult Chinook had been counted.
Just 2,317 spring Chinook jacks had passed over Bonneville Dam as of May 16. Last year on May 15, nearly three times that many had passed the dam and the 10-year average is 15,835.
Although steelhead anglers would have been required to release any adult salmon they caught in the postponed fishery, a certain percentage would die after release. “Unfortunately we just don’t have any lower river sport allocation left to operate this fishery prior to a run update,” said Tucker Jones, ODFW’s Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program manager.
“We’re not sure if this run is just very late or also below forecast,” Jones said “Water conditions have been way outside of normal this year, and that could be the primary cause for the low counts to date,” he added.
“The abnormal water conditions this year have injected a level of uncertainty into assessing this run that doesn’t typically exist,” Jones said. “Given the unclear situation we have this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes another week or two before we really know the full story on this year’s return.”
However, angling for shad will open as usual May 16.