Bonneville Salmon Counts Still Down
by Bill Monroe
The Oregonian, May 11, 2009
As biologists in Oregon and Washington prepare to meet today, or sometime this week, and sharply reduce the forecast for the 2009 spring chinook run, they had hoped for good numbers from Saturday and Sunday at Bonneville Dam's counting windows.
At 5:30 a.m. Monday, with Sunday's numbers still being tabulated, the news was more than disappointing.
Salmon not only had a bad day Saturday at barely 2,000 adults, but the number was just half of the day before.
Even if Sunday's count jumps significantly, there seems little hope of reaching the prediction of nearly 300,000.
Meanwhile, John North, a biologist on the Columbia River management team for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he checked further on what many suspect are a large number of uncounted salmon passing the windows after the counters go home at 9 p.m.
North said studies of pit tags show the uncounted fish might be just 2 percent of the run, hardly significant in the face of the disappointing show of springers.
Metal pit tags are injected into baby salmon at hatcheries and are automatically detected as the fish cross the dam, both on their outmigration and their return as adults.
North said scientists looked at pit tag numbers between counting hours, 5 a.m.to 9 p.m., and then after hours and came up with the percentage of un-counted fish.
"It's not the smoking gun," he said.
Still, anglers who've spent the past few weeks watching the windows on home computer screens (click here), remain skeptical.
(And Monday morning's show has begun with a little more morning activity than usual, by the way.)
See an active online discussion here and here.
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