Chinook Run Slows:
by Bill Rudolph
With little rain to coax fish upriver, the numbers of spring chinook swimming up the Columbia River have remained lackluster at best. The count barely reached 137,000 fish by May 9, a mere 29,000 fish above the 10-year average. With great returns over the past few years, it's hard to remember just how poor things have been. In 1995, the spring run never hit 18,000.
This year's run likely started late, anyway, according to basin fish managers. Two weeks ago, the technical advisory committee that provides the estimates said if the run was late, then it was still too early for them to provide a precise update to the 360,000-fish pre-season estimate for the number of spring chinook entering the mouth of the river. However, for management purposes, the managers lowered their estimate to 312,000 fish.
On May 3, they dropped that estimate to 200,000 fish and closed the river to sports fishing all the way to McNary Dam. They had already closed sports fishing from the I-5 bridge to Bonneville Dam. So far, sporties have caught nearly 24,000 chinook, close to their allocation. Commercial non-Indian fishermen had landed about an equal amount.
Commercial tribal gillnetting began May 4 above Bonneville Dam, where about 22,000 chinook were caught in last year's spring fisheries. This year, the tribe will be allowed to take 10 percent of the 200,000 estimate. If the original estimate had panned out, they would have been able to catch 13 percent of the run, which includes chinook caught in platform and ceremonial fisheries.
More than half of the springers passing Bonneville Dam are expected to be heading to Idaho. By May 9, about 40,000 chinook had been counted at Lower Granite Dam, about twice the 10-year average.
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