Spring Chinook Numbers
by Eric Barker
Counts on the Snake and Columbia rivers are getting better, officials report
Spring chinook counts at Snake and Columbia River dams are improving, but fisheries managers are still unsure how strong the run will be.
The fish are clearly late, but depending just how tardy they end up being could make a big difference to anglers. Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said the state's harvest share for the Clearwater and its tributaries could range between 1,000 and 2,500. The lower number is based on how strong the run will be if its timing lines up with an average of other late runs. The larger number is based on a run timing that matches last year's run, the latest ever recorded.
Likewise, the harvest share projection on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers ranges between 363 and 1,200.
DuPont said there is some evidence the run will end up being similar to last year's, as far as timing.
"It still gives me hope our forecast is going to be similar to what actually happens," he said.
Flows on the lower Columbia River have surged in recent weeks and may be responsible for a dip in the number of chinook passing Bonneville Dam late last week and early this week.
"We don't know when the flows at Bonneville are going to drop. Last year, the flows dropped for just a few days and a huge pulse of fish came through, and right now I don't really see that (in the forecast)," he said.
But the number of fish passing both Bonneville Dam on the Columbia and Lower Granite on the Snake River is on the rise.
On Wednesday, 1,160 adult chinook were counted at Lower Granite, the first day in which the daily count surpassed 1,000. The cumulative count through Wednesday was 2,846. The 10-year average is 26,413.
At Bonneville Dam, the daily count was more than 4,500 Wednesday. It's been higher, but marks a recovery from last week's dip, which saw a low of 852. The cumulative count at Bonneville Wednesday was 55,618. The 10-year average is more than 125,000.
Idaho's chinook seasons have yet to produce much angler effort or success. But with fish counts climbing, that could change in the next two weeks.
"I would expect some harvest to occur but not much (this week), and then the following interval (harvest) will start to pick up," DuPont said.
Fishing on the Snake River in Washington continues, with another two-day season near Ice Harbor Dam today and Saturday, and a two-day season near Little Goose Dam and Clarkston Sunday and Monday. Fishing on the Columbia River has been halted.
Ryan Lothrup, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the cumulative fish counts at Bonneville Dam need to hit about 80,000 to 85,000 to account for harvest that has already taken place and harvest projected on the Snake River.
While the strength of the run remains unclear, Lothrup said there are likely many upriver-bound chinook that have yet to pass Bonneville Dam.
He believes the run will at least be strong enough to cover harvest that has already happened, but will likely fall short of the preseason forecast of 167,000 chinook.
"It's going to be a very slim chance for us to hit the preseason forecast. We would have to have almost the latest run timing on record," he said. "We are anticipating less than forecast, but not the worst run, either."
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