Sockeye Return Breaks Records as
by Columbia Basin Bulletin
COLUMBIA RIVER - The 2010 sockeye salmon return to the Columbia-Snake river basin has gotten off to an unprecedented start, chalking up several of the top daily counts for the species in the history of record-keeping at Bonneville Dam's fish ladder windows. The dam went online, and the counts began in 1938.
The all-time record count, 30,690, was recorded Thursday at the Lower Columbia Dam, located 146 river miles from the Pacific Ocean.
The previous record was set the day before, Wednesday of last week, a count of 30,374. Before that, the record was the 27,112 sockeye counted on July 7, 1955, according to Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The tallies from June 21 (26,873), June 22 (25,128), June 25 (25,048) and June 20 (25,011) are now the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh highest daily sockeye counts ever at Bonneville Dam.
The total sockeye count this year as of Saturday, June 26 - 239,223 - is also a record through that date.
The previous record sockeye count at Bonneville for an entire season was 237,748 in 1955, according to data compiled by the Fish Passage Center. Third best of 235,215 in 1953 and fourth highest is a 213,607 total in 2008. Those three years are the only years with Bonneville counts of more than 200,000 sockeye.
This year's sudden burst of sockeye over Bonneville Dam puts the run well ahead 2008's pace when 122,510 sockeye had been counted through June 23. The 2010 daily high to-date is double the 2008 high through June 23 -15,453.
The high numbers also prompted the Technical Advisory Committee last Wednesday to upgrade its forecast for 2010 sockeye returns to 250,000 adult fish as measured entering the mouth of the Columbia. Typically about half of the sockeye run is up and over Bonneville by about June 24.
The preseason forecast was for a return of 125,200 adult fish to the river mouth. The recent 10-year average is 97,000 fish.
That preseason forecast included a return of 14,300 Wenatchee stock, 110,300 Okanogan stock and 600 Snake River sockeye.
"We had what was a conservative preseason forecast" despite some signs that the run might be bigger, said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Kathryn Kostow, who serves as TAC chair. TAC's federal, state and tribal membership develops run-size forecast for all of the Columbia-Snake basin's salmon and steelhead stocks.
Forecasting can be an imprecise science, particularly for stocks like the sockeye that can have, at times, wide population swings even from one year to the next for no apparent reason.
"If you're going to miss a forecast it's better to have more (fish return than forecast) than fewer," Kostow said.
Through Wednesday of last week, 89,014 of the sockeye had made it up and over the next dam upstream, The Dalles, and 61,246 had been counted at John Day Dam, the third dam the fish must hurdle on their way to the upper Columbia to the Okanogan and Wenatchee river watersheds in central Washington and southern British Columbia and to the Snake River basin.
So far only nine sockeye had been counted at the lower Snake's Lower Granite Dam, the eighth hydro project the sockeye must climb before turning into the Salmon River and heading toward central Idaho's high country and Redfish Lake. The Snake River sockeye are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The upper Columbia stocks are not listed.
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