Steelhead Expectations Drop;
by Bill Rudolph
Columbia River Basin harvest managers heard some bad news Oct. 2, after their technical committee announced an even further downgrade of the region's ESA-listed B-run steelhead stock that spends two years at sea and is headed for Idaho.
The latest estimate calls for 10,700 of the fish to enter the Columbia River this year, down from a preseason forecast of 31,600, and only 2,500 are expected to be wild.
The A-run steelhead stock -- smaller fish that tend to spend one year in the ocean -- was projected to return at a level of 213,400 fish, including 88,000 wild. That is down significantly from the preseason estimate of 291,000 fish.
The Columbia coho return was coming up short as well. Early returns added up to only 33,000, just a third of what was expected.
But the huge fall Chinook run is still showing signs of life, with close to 5,000 fish a day climbing Bonneville Dam fish ladders. The upriver bright run estimate was maintained at 832,500 adults, (compared to 434,600 forecasted) and 69,000 Bonneville Pool tules (compared to 36,300 forecasted).
Meanwhile, the fall Chinook return on the Snake has shattered the old record. By Oct. 14, more than 53,000 hatchery and wild fall Chinook were counted at Lower Granite Dam, beating the 2010 return of almost 42,000, the largest return since the dams were constructed on the Snake.
At one point, the wild run was down to 78 fish. This year's return of natural-origin fish will likely beat 1963's total, when nearly 14,000 fall Chinook were counted at Ice Harbor -- then the only dam on the lower Snake.
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