Trend is Up for 2009 Columbia
by Scott Learn
The fall chinook and coho seasons are still to come, but after a lackluster start it's shaping up as a good year for fish returns to the Columbia River.
This year's spring chinook run came in far lower than expected, with adult returns of 114,525 over Bonneville Dam, nearly 50,000 fish below the 10-year average.
But sockeye and steelhead numbers are impressive so far this season, according to Fish Passage Center reports.
Last week, as The Oregonian's Bill Monroe reported Saturday, steelhead hit three one-day records for post-dam returns, topping out Thursday with just over 34,000 fish.
The season total for steelhead over Bonneville as of Aug. 13 is at 258,087, more than 80,000 above the 10-year average as of that date, the Fish Passage Center says.
About 96,000 of those fish are wild; the rest are hatchery bred, as indicated by their clipped adipose fins.
Also as of Aug. 13, 177,785 sockeye salmon, mainly hatchery bred, topped Bonneville. That's below last year's highs, but still almost 100,000 fish above the 10-year average.
The summer chinook return is about average so far, with about 82,000 adult fish at Bonneville through Thursday, 5,000 above the 10-year average. With both summer and spring chinook, the picture improves if you count relatively large returns of "jacks," or younger-than normal fish.
Biologists are predicting big runs of coho and fall chinook as well, though, as spring chinook illustrated this year, predicted runs don't always materialize.
Sifting through the numbers now: the Obama administration, which has to decide whether to stick with a 10-year Bush administration plan for endangered and threatened runs of wild salmon and steelhead.
Also interested: U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, who will ultimately decide whether the government's plan is up to snuff.
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