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Higher Spring Chinook Counts
at Bonneville Extends Fishing

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, June 7, 2013

212,172 Shad Pass Dam On Thursday

The latest forecast projects a minimum return of 115,000 upriver spring chinook adults to the Columbia River mouth. That's still well shy of the preseason forecast of 141,400, but is a boost from a May 13 forecast of 107,500.

The Technical Advisory Committee, made up of representatives of federal, state and tribal fish management entities, met Thursday to assess run status and provided an official run-size forecast update for the 2013 upriver spring chinook return.

"Most of the TAC members felt that that was pretty conservative," the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission's Stuart Ellis told the Columbia River Compact this morning (June7). Counts have averaged 1,900 over the past four days. If the average count was 2,000 for the last nine days of the counting period, the total upriver return would approach 120,000. Chinook passing over Bonneville are counted by fishery managers as "spring" chinook through June 15.

The run-size estimate increase enabled the Compact to approve a reopening of the treaty platform and hook and line fisheries on the Columbia mainstem upstream of Bonneville Dam. Chinook, sockeye, steelhead, shad, walleye, carp, catfish, bass and yellow perch may be sold or kept for subsistence purposes. The Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, is made up of representatives of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. Today's panel included the ODFW's Steve Williams and WDFW's Guy Norman.

Williams and Norman also convened a joint state meeting to approve expanded mainstem sport fishing opportunities. The area from Bonneville Dam up to the point the Columbia turns north into Washington, which had been closed since May 6, is set to reopen Saturday (June 8) and run through June 15. There will be a one-chinook daily limit.

Also open Saturday is the area from Beacon Rock about four river miles up to the boat deadline below Bonneville Dam. Fishing has been allowed along that reach from the bank, but not from boats. Boats will be allowed to pursue fish (two-salmonid daily limit, though only one chinook, and no sockeye, can be kept) upstream come Saturday.

Fisheries officials project that the below Bonneville (from the dam downstream to the river mouth) sport harvest this season (Jan. 1-June 15) will total 5,253 upriver spring chinook, or 90 percent of that fishery's allocation under catch balance limits imposed to assure equal sharing with treaty fishers upstream. The lower river commercial catch is 1,915 adult spring chinook, including 1,474 upriver fish. That is 64 percent of that fishery's allocation, but its ESA impacts total 98 percent of the allowed amount.

The tribes have caught an estimated 8,335 chinook, including 4,175 in spring ceremonial and subsistence permit gill-net fisheries; 1,180 in platform fisheries above Bonneville and 2,980 in platform fisheries downstream of Bonneville. The platform fisheries were closed last month because the catch approached ESA impact limits based on the 107,500 run-size forecast. Again, the increased forecast made this week allowed the reopening.

The forecast updates are based in large part on fish counts at Bonneville Dam's fish ladders. Upriver spring chinook are fish bound for spawning grounds and hatcheries in tributaries to the Columbia in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Bonneville is located at river mile 146.

Counts of "upriver" chinook at Bonneville have surged a bit in recent days. The high daily spring chinook count at Bonneville this year was 7,311 on May 3, with counts thereafter generally stair-stepping downward.

In late May and early June counts dropped to about 800-900 per day, but rebounded with counts of 1,606, 1,902, 2,042 and 2,231 Monday-Thursday. That increase could likely be attributable to an infusion of "summer" chinook from the early part of that run that are headed upriver alongside the tail end of the spring run. State managers consider chinook springers when counted at Bonneville Dam through June 15. After that date chinook passing the dam are counted as summer stock until Aug. 1, when the fall chinook tally begins.

The overall count this year at Bonneville through Thursday was 92,861 adult upriver spring chinook. When lower Columbia tribal and non-tribal harvests are added, a total of 101,761 adult upriver spring chinook have been accounted for to date.

That's the lowest count through June 6 since 2007, when 72,134 adult spring chinook had passed the dam. The final run-size estimate that year to the river mouth was 86,247.

The upriver spring chinook "jack" count through Thursday was 36,831, already the third largest on a record dating back to 1980. Jacks are young male fish that return to the river after one year in the Pacific Ocean, as compared to fully mature fish that spend two or more years at sea.

The 2013 jack return is not likely move up the record book. In 2009, the record year, 71,237 jacks had passed Bonneville by June 5 and 56,398 had been tallied through that date in 2011, which ended up with the second highest total. Recent days' jack counts have been in the 600-fish range.

The Bonneville fish ladders have been busy. The biggest daily shad count so far this year -- 212,172 fish -- was recorded Thursday. That followed a count of 159,906 on Wednesday. The shad total for the season has reached 1.1 million. Last year's total was 2.4 for the entire season. No daily count in 2012 was higher than yesterday's tally.

Higher Spring Chinook Counts at Bonneville Extends Fishing
Columbia Basin Bulletin, June 7, 2013

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