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Steelhead Forecast is Looking Good

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, July 29, 2004

Fisheries managers are calling for about the same number of A-run steelhead to return to the Columbia River and its tributaries this year as returned last year.

They also say the number of B-run steelhead that return to the river likely will climb by nearly 25,000 compared to last year.

Officials from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have not calculated how many steelhead they expect to return above Lower Granite Dam but say it is likely to be on par with returns over the past five years.

"If you look at the last five years of (Lower) Granite counts it would probably be pretty close to that," said Scott Marshall, a fisheries biologist for the department at Boise.

That means chances are high that Idaho and eastern Washington anglers will have another fine steelhead season. The average return of steelhead to Lower Granite Dam during the past five years has been 170,452 fish. That average is inflated some because of the extraordinary return of steelhead in 2001 when 269,282 steelhead were counted crossing the dam. If that year is thrown out the average of the remaining four years equals 145,744. Last year the steelhead run, as counted at Lower Granite, was 172,202.

Marshall said the department will start to crunch its numbers in October when about half the A-run fish can be expected to be over Lower Granite Dam. Any predictions done before those numbers are available can't be relied upon he said.

Marshall sits on the Technical Advisory Committee, a collection of fisheries managers from state, federal and tribal governments that help divide salmon and steelhead runs between sport, commercial and tribal anglers, the needs of hatcheries and naturally spawning populations.

The committee estimates that 306,600 A-run steelhead will return to Bonneville Dam this summer and fall. They also expect 63,200 B-run fish to return to the dam near Portland. Combined, that comes to 369,800 steelhead to Bonneville Dam. Last year 365,581 steelhead were counted at the dam.

A-run steelhead are the first to return to the Columbia River. They generally spend one year in the ocean and average 6 to 10 pounds. B-run steelhead return later in the fall after spending two to three years in the ocean. They average 12 to 15 pounds and can weight as much as 30 pounds.

Eric Barker
Steelhead Forecast is Looking Good
Lewiston Tribune, July 29, 2004

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