Decent Salmon Fishing Off Coast
by Mark Yuasa
Salmon anglers should have decent fishing opportunities off the coast and on the Columbia River next summer and fall.
"The summer chinook return for the Upper Columbia is a good forecast, and the highest since at least 1980," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
The Upper Columbia summer chinook forecast is 91,200, compared to a forecast of 91,100 last year and an actual return of 80,600.
The record Columbia River summer chinook return was 89,500 in 2002.
All salmon stocks in recent years are benefiting from La Nina's colder water upwelling conditions that produce fantastic ocean survival rates, not only for fin fish species but the entire food chain.
Most of the summer chinook migrate up the Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam from mid-June through July, and are commonly referred to by anglers as "June Hogs."
Last summer's 5,160 adult hatchery-marked summer chinook kept is a record, breaking the 4,924 in 2006. There was an estimated 75,818 angler trips, the highest since at least 1973.
The Columbia is also expecting a relatively strong sockeye return of 462,000 in 2012, compared to a forecast of 161,900 last year, and an actual return of 183,300.
Most of the sockeye -- 431,300 -- are destined for the Okanogan River with 28,800 headed to the Wenatchee (41,800 returned last year) and 1,900 back to the Snake River in Idaho (1,900).
If the 2012 forecast pans out, it would be a record return since at least 1938. The largest sockeye return was 387,900 in 2010.
"Sockeye can be difficult to forecast, and the Snake River return hasn't increased and is going to be a constraining factor again," said Kathryn Kostow of Oregon Fish and Wildlife and Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee chairwoman.
The Columbia sockeye fisheries are quite limited by Snake River sockeye, which are listed on the Endangered Species Act.
But the Lower Columbia was open for sockeye fishing last summer, with a record of 1,427 sockeye kept.
No specific forecasts have been released for fall salmon runs, but some general information was recently announced.
The upriver bright fall chinook return in 2012 is expected to be strong again, and is a major contributor in the Columbia River fisheries.
All other Columbia River fall chinook stocks should be similar to 2011 actual returns, including the lower river hatchery stock that produced one of the better fishing seasons off the coast. The Bonneville Pool hatchery chinook return is predicted to be less than 2011.
The total fall chinook returns in the Columbia River last year were predicted to be 766,300 adult fish (nearly 108,000 more than the 2010 forecast), and the actual return was about 600,000.
The Lower Columbia River fall chinook had a record kept catch of 28,169 adult fish with 147,343 angler trips taken from past August through October. The previous record was 26,195 adults kept in 2003, and the previous angler trip record was 117,975 in 2009.
The 2011 coho return is slightly greater than 270,800, and the jack return about 13,000, compared to 10-year average of 28,00.
All the salmon fishing seasons will be announced in early April.
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