COLUMBIA RIVER — Only 3,347 spring Chinook crossed Bonneville Dam as of April 30 — about 2 percent of the predicted run size of 160,400 upriver spring Chinook, according to NW Fishletter.
By May 7, about half of the spring Chinook have usually passed the dam on their way to upriver spawning locations.
But Chinook may be holed up in the Lower Columbia. Test fishing indicates a large Chinook presence in the estuary, but the water is higher, colder and more turbid than usual, likely delaying upstream migration.
Warmer temperatures predicted for early May may help. A status report from interagency biologists of the Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee is expected in May.
Meanwhile, many salmon returns along the West Coast from Northern California to Puget Sound are poor to very poor. The Klamath River is particularly hard hit this year, with only a Chinook run size of some 12,000 fish predicted.
Numerous Puget Sound Chinook and coastal Washington coho stocks are also in trouble.
The reduced returns are partly a result of poor ocean conditions brought about by the 2014-16 El Niño weather pattern. The warmer El Niño waters meant different but less-nutritious food sources were available to these fish when they were juveniles. This year as a result, most ocean and in-river fishing seasons are very constrained and in some cases closed, even though conditions shifted to a cool, wet La Niña weather pattern for the winter for 2016-17.