Fall Chinook Run
by Bill Rudolph
The largest fall Chinook return since Bonneville Dam was built in 1938 is finally winding down.
With more than 951,000 fish counted by Nov. 5, lower river gillnetters were awarded five more 12-hour fishing periods to mop up the stragglers heading upriver. No more openings are expected.
Harvest managers say the non-Indian gillnetters have caught about 36 percent of the lower Columbia's natural tule stock, nearly reaching their 38.97-percent quota of the ESA-listed stock. The fleet had also nearly maxed out on its allocation of B-run steelhead, catching about 1.9 percent of its 2-percent share of the ESA protected fish.
Managers said the gillnet fleet had also caught about 12 percent of the upriver bright stock, headed for the Hanford Reach. A record number was estimated to have entered the river -- 832,500.
The gillnetters were allowed up to 15 percent this year. It was also estimated the fleet had caught a bit more than 12 percent of the lower river coho, close to their 15-percent limit.
By Oct. 19, Bonneville counts of fall Chinook had declined to triple digits for the first time since Aug. 4, while fish were still moving past upriver dams. At McNary, where more than half a million falls were counted this year, about 1,246 fall Chinook were counted on Oct. 23.
More than 200,000 fall Chinook have passed Priest Rapids Dam, more than seven times the 10-year average, and nearly 60,000 were headed up the Snake, more than twice the 10-year average.
By Oct. 23, more than 55,000 falls had been counted at Lower Granite Dam, a new record, with more than 100 a day still passing the dam. The modern record was set in 2010 when nearly 42,000 were counted.
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