Columbia River Fall Chinook
by Bill Monroe
BONNEVILLE -- The Columbia River's fall chinook salmon run won't reach its much-hyped "record" prediction of 1.5 million adults.
But while it may not even equal last year's record 1.27 million, it's still a whopper of a run and could still come in at seven figures, biologists said this past week.
"They were late-starters, but when they finally hit Bonneville, it came uncorked," said John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Columbia River management program in Clackamas. "Numbers just skyrocketed."
North referred to a spike in Bonneville Dam daily counts Sunday (67,024) and Monday (67,521). The total for both days was higher than the entire runs in some years of the early 1990s.
However, counts went down enough by Thursday (26,034) biologists said with the typical fall run a bit past the halfway point, the 461,169 total by that day means this year's fall run will likely be closer to a million adults.
But hey, what's a million fish between anglers? A whopper of a run, that's what.
North totaled the actual and (revised) predicted Columbia returns for 2014 and came up with a potential return of more than 3 million adult salmon and steelhead of all species. "Which seems like a lot, but it appears 2001 will still be the recent high return at 3.26 million," he said.
No chump change there.
We took 3-year-old grandson Billy (he's the sixth stuck with the name) to the viewing windows in the bowels of the dam's visitor center Wednesday, where he greeted visitors and fish ("like daddy catches") equally. He's the fifth consecutive Bill Monroe to share kinship with the Columbia.
My grandfather met and married my grandmother in a Columbia Gorge railroad stop in the early 20th century. They often rowed back and forth to Rufus to attend the Saturday dance (hoping the wind would come up and strand them, my grandmother used to say with a smile...no bridges back then). My own father took us to Celilo Falls before The Dalles Dam flooded it in 1957 and our son and I continue to nurture a deep respect for the river and its salmon.
Billy and I stood at the window, exchanging greetings and explaining the salmon story to several visitors -- many with foreign accents -- watching salmon pass through Bonneville's vein into home capillaries across an area the size of France.
Want to see for yourself? You don't need to go fishing to enjoy the Columbia's salmon bounties:
Multnomah Falls: Seriously. A relatively robust return of coho salmon usually means strays in the small stream flowing from the falls past the parking lots into the Columbia. (And, after the rain begins in October, probably also in numerous small runoff streams and culverts across the Portland area. Coho do that.)Ocean coho fishing! Remains excellent out of most ports from Newport north to the Columbia River mouth.
Bonneville Dam: The visitor center offers free lectures, numerous historical murals, excellent safe walkways along the dam's fish ladder, with overhead views of salmon moving upriver, and a large viewing room, where more than half the river's run passes (there also is a ladder on the Washington side).
Online: A live camera inside Bonneville records the passage for those stuck at home or in the office: www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environment/Fish/Cameras.aspx
Bonneville Fish Hatchery: Holding and rearing ponds, two educational sturgeon ponds including a sub-surface viewing window into an over-sized sturgeon's world, gift shop and Tanner Creek, where returning adult salmon collect below the hatchery. Drive a short distance beyond the hatchery parking lot to reach the creek's mouth into the Columbia. It will soon be teeming with salmon.
Eagle Creek: A short distance upriver from the Bonneville exit; also soon to fill with returning salmon easily viewed from a roadway; limited parking.
The Dalles Dam: Also a visitor center (and ride on a small railroad). John Day Dam has just a viewing area.
Buying salmon: From Bonneville upriver, tribal fishermen sell fresh catches daily at several locations, starting on the Oregon side at Cascade Locks. Look for additional sales sites online.
By last Sunday, wild coho retention was a little over half of its quota south of Cape Falcon, near Manzanita and a bit less than a third of its quota between Cape Falcon and Leadbetter Point, Wash.
Out of Garibaldi last Saturday, we fished deeper than usual for coho (30-50 feet) and had limits of four hatchery and two non-clipped fish within an hour. At least one was stuffed with squid, which could explain their unusual depth.
Hatchery and wild fought, cut and broiled the same.
Fall Chinook Hitting at Snake-Clearwater Confluence by Rich Landers, Spokesman-Review, 9/17/14
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