Coho salmon. Oncorhynchus kisutch.

Coho salmon. Oncorhynchus kisutch.

ILWACO — It has been a better-than-expected year for salmon in the Columbia River, with Chinook, coho and steelhead returns all well above preseason forecasts. This is welcome news for recreational and commercial fishermen, and the local businesses they support.

Chinook returns totaled 435,500 upriver fish, with the total fall Chinook return now expected to include 514,500 adults, 22% more than the preseason forecast, according to the Columbia River Compact’s Oct. 6 fact sheet.

Early-stock coho — defined as those passing Bonneville Dam through Sept. 30 — totaled 91,649 adults, nearly three times the predicted 33,880 fish.

The late stock coho count at Bonneville Dam through Oct. 12 was 14,432. The late stock preseason forecast was 9,400.

The two different classes of steelhead monitored by the compact were running at 90% and 336% of the forecast at Bonneville as of the Oct. 6 fact sheet.

The Buoy 10 fishery — and other fisheries upstream — are currently open to retention of hatchery coho and Chinook with a two-Chinook daily adult bag limit. Through Sept. 27, total adult Chinook mortalities — kept plus released — were approximately 15,322 fish. Adult coho catches included an estimated 6,191 kept and 7,549 released.

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(1) comment

David Moskowitz

The 2020 wild B-run Columbia River summer steelhead return was significantly upgraded in mid-September from the pre-season forecast of 1,400 “unclipped” or wild fish to 7,900 fish. While this increase is welcome – the revised return is still only 60% of the ten-year average. The combined hatchery and wild B-run return (the so-called Index) is forecasted to be 33,500 fish – well above the pre-season forecast - but that return has been exceeded in 14 of the past 20 years.

What also remains disturbing is the lack of accuracy of the forecast models and the impacts of using these forecasts to set seasons in the Columbia.

The current return of hatchery and wild summer steelhead as of October 14 is 106, 844 fish past Bonneville Dam (BON). This number is 49% of the current ten-year average (2010 – 2019). The run is the eighth lowest count in the past ten years. Try comparing 2020 to the largest wild summer steelhead return in the past twenty years (2009) when 165, 867 wild steelhead had passed BON during the same time frame. That would put the 2020 wild return thus far at a mere 25% of the robust 2009 wild return.

Another point of comparison - the total 2020 hatchery and wild A and B-run will be barely larger than the average wild steelhead return between 2001 and 2010 (112,600 predicted verses 111,256 average).

While comparing this year to other years may not tell you everything, it can certainly tell you what you have lost over time.

David Moskowitz

The Conservation Angler

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