Low Columbia River Sockeye
by Mark Yuasa
The 101,600 prediction is barely one-third of the recent 10-year average.
The Columbia River sockeye run jumped out of the starting gate rather strong, but fishery managers are cautious on how many will make it to the finish line.
"The forecast (101,600) is on the lower end of the spectrum, and the recent 10-year average is 290,200," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
Through last Thursday, 10,146 sockeye were counted at the Bonneville Dam fish ladder, the highest count by that date dating back to at least 1938.
Based on the forecast, only 500 fish were expected to have returned by this time. Typically, the peak of sockeye counts at Bonneville occurs around June 27.
A breakdown of this summer's sockeye return calls for 57,800 back to the Wenatchee; 41,700 to the Okanogan; and 2,100 to the Snake River systems.
The Wenatchee component is forecast to be greater than the escapement objective of 23,000 fish, and similar to the 10-year average return of 48,400.
The bread-and-butter of sockeye returns is the Okanogan component bound for Canada, which has shown an impressive increase in strength since 2008, but is expected to fall well below the recent 10-year average of 240,500 fish.
"Although the Snake River component represents a small proportion of the total run, a return of 2,100 fish would be 158 percent of the recent 10-year average return," Hymer said. "Minor returns to the Yakima and Deschutes are also expected."
Last year's total return of 512,500 sockeye was the third-largest run since at least 1938 – the record is 648,361 fish in 2014.
While last year's sockeye returned in near-record numbers, it was something short of a disaster in-river as about 250,000 perished due to unusually warm water temperatures (70 to 76 degrees) from a state-wide drought and extremely hot summer.
"River conditions had a negative effect on the successful migration of sockeye in 2015," Hymer said. "Sockeye were reported in Columbia tributaries where normally they would rarely be found. Upriver passage of sockeye from one hydro facility to another was also abnormal.
"These sockeye ran into a very strong thermal barrier, and were thought to dip-in to seek cool water refuge. Their eventual upriver migration, and final fate of these dip-in fish was unknown."
While the sockeye count at Bonneville totaled over 510,000, less than 280,000 were counted at McNary Dam about 140 miles upstream.
The Fish Passage Center estimated the Snake River adult sockeye survival from Bonneville to Lower Granite Dam was 4 percent (compared to a range of 44 to 77 percent from 2009 to 2014). Survival of Upper Columbia adult sockeye from Bonneville to Rock Island Dam was 46 percent (compared to a range of 59 to 80 percent from 2009-14).
Most of the sockeye mysteriously vanished from the Columbia between Bonneville and McNary dams.
Earlier this week, the water temperature climbed to 64.5 degrees, which was slightly colder than what it was at the same time-frame last year.
Salmon have a hard time once the water temperature reaches about 68 degrees for an extended duration.
More crabbing dates announced
State Fish and Wildlife has announced the remainder of the Dungeness crab fisheries in many marine waterways that will open July 1. In all areas mentioned below, fishing is allowed Thursdays to Mondays only.
The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Area 6), east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), northern Puget Sound (9), central Puget Sound (10) and south-central Puget Sound (11) will open July 1 through Sept. 5.
The San Juan Islands/Bellingham (7 South) opens July 15 through Sept. 30, and Gulf of Georgia (7 North) is open Aug. 13 through Sept. 30.
Seasons previously announced are Hood Canal (12), and Neah Bay (4) and Sekiu (5) in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca will open at 6 a.m. on June 16 until Sept. 5.
A portion of northern Puget Sound (9) will open at 6 a.m. June 16 through Sept. 5 north of the Hood Canal Bridge to a line connecting Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point. Southern Puget Sound (13) south of the Narrows Bridge is currently open through Sept. 5.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs