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Ecology and salmon related articles

Record Salmon Run is Forecast

by Mark Yuasa, staff reporter
Sports, Seattle Times, January 18, 2001

Ask many anglers and they'll say a Columbia River spring chinook is just as tasty as Alaska's highly touted, oil-rich Copper River salmon.

With that in mind, anglers will be glad to know that an expected surge of Columbia spring chinook, mainly above Bonneville Dam, should create a windfall of fishing opportunities.

"There was a spring chinook caught in the lower river commercial sturgeon fishery last week and it is fairly early to see such a catch, but maybe a positive sign of what's to come later on," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancouver.

This year, biologists predict a record-high return of 364,600 adult spring chinook to the Upper Columbia River.

Last year's forecast called for 134,000 fish, and the actual run was 178,600.

However, only about 30 percent of those upper-river hatchery fish are fin-clipped, which are the only fish that can be harvested. This year's forecast for the Wind River, northeast of Bonneville Dam, is 39,400 adult 4-year-old spring chinook and 3,200 5-year-olds, which is nearly twice as large as last year's return.

Last year, Fish and Wildlife officials set the longest fishing season on the Wind River since 1991.

In Drano Lake, about 8,300 4-year-olds and 2,800 5-year-olds are expected to return, which would be equivalent to last year.

In the Klickitat River, about 1,900 fish (600 4-year-old fish and 1,300 5-year-olds) are forecast, which is similar to last year.

Biologists say one reason for the boost in returns is attributed to a cooling of the waters in the ocean off the Northwest coastline that began three years ago.

This trend resulted in nutrient-rich water that yielded ample feed for salmon. A larger than normal water flow also helped push juvenile spring chinook downstream.

The Lower Columbia spring chinook returns aren't predicted to be quite as good, but similar to last year's expected run sizes.

"We aren't seeing the exponential increase of lower river springers, like those fish returning above Bonneville," Hymer said.

"The likely reason is where these fish reside in the ocean. The fish above Bonneville probably went farther out into the ocean and were less affected by fisheries off our coast and in British Columbia."

(bluefish wonders if a better explanation might be "larger than normal water flow also helped push juvenile spring chinook downstream")

This spring, the Cowlitz River forecast is 1,000 spring salmon (1,700 last year); Lewis, 2,800 (2,200); and the Kalama, 1,000 (1,400). In Oregon, the popular Willamette River fishery can expect about 61,000 springers, which is on par with this past year.

Mark Yuasa
Record Salmon Run is Forecast
Seattle Times, January 18, 2001

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