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Ecology and salmon related articles

Yeah, We've Heard this Before:
Big Salmon Run Predicted for 2012

by Roger Phillips
Idaho Statesman, December 19, 2011

(Allen Thomas photo) Dick Borneman of Vancouver with a 29-pound spring chinook caught in 2010 near Caterpillar Island This came from the Columbia Basin Bulletin. The snarky headline is because salmon runs have come in under predictions for the last four or five years. But let's keep that in context. We've had respectable salmon runs that have allowed generous fishing seasons. So that's great news, and it allows Idaho anglers to know they should get another salmon fishing season in 2012. Take all preseason forecasts with a grain of salt, but I will say this much, better to have predictions of a good run fall short than predictions of a bad run come true.

Anyway, here's the word from the experts: Fishery managers are predicting strong returns in 2012, including a forecast return to the mouth of the Columbia River of 314,200 adult spring chinook salmon. Such a return would be the fourth-largest return on a record dating back to 1938.

The upriver spring chinook return this year was 221,200. It followed a 2010 return that totaled 315,345 adults, the third strongest on record. The 2001 run marked a high of 440,300 adult upriver spring chinook and it was followed by the second largest estimated return: 335,214 in 2002.

The upriver spring chinook run is comprised of stocks from three geographically separate areas upstream of Bonneville Dam, which is located at river mile 146 upstream from the Pacific. Those areas are: 1) the Columbia River system upstream of the Yakima River (upper Columbia), 2) the Snake River system, and 3) Columbia River tributaries between Bonneville Dam and the Yakima River, excluding the Snake River (mid-Columbia).

Snake River chinook are destined for areas upstream of Lower Granite Dam, mostly into Idaho. The Snake River spring/summer chinook forecast pegs the return at 168,000 adult fish, again as counted at the mouth of the Columbia. If predictions are accurate, it would be the fourth-largest return dating back to at least 1980. The top returns were 261,000 in 2001, 171,000 in 2002 and 170,000 in 2010.

The "wild," naturally produced portion of that Snake River spring/summer chinook run is forecast to number 39,000, which would be the third-highest on record dating back to at least 1980.

The strong forecast is based on the second-largest number of spring chinook jacks dating back to 1960 counted at Bonneville Dam this year. The 50,946 jack total was second only to the 66,631 counted in 2009. Jacks are juvenile males that return after a year in ocean and are indicators of how many adults spending two years in the ocean are likely to return the following year. Chinook typically spend one to five years in the ocean, but most return after two years.

Roger Phillips
Yeah, We've Heard this Before: Big Salmon Run Predicted for 2012
Idaho Statesman, December 19, 2011

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