State, federal and tribal biologists predict an improved run of 227,000 spring chinook salmon will enter the Columbia River in 2014 headed for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam.
“It’s a good number, better than last year, but not up to what we’d like to see for the future,” said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The spring chinook forecast for the Snake and mid- and upper Columbia rivers is the most anticipated number of the year among anglers. A good forecast fuels fishing optimism that sells tackle, bait, boats and books trips with guides. Good spring chinook fishing segues into anglers staying on the water for summer chinook, summer steelhead and fall chinook.
“The forecast is almost twice what we had in 2013,” said Randy Woolsey, a manufacturers representative. “With good river conditions, the run should present anglers with a terrific opportunity this spring.”
In 2013, the Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee forecast a return of 141,400. The actual return was 123,100.
“It’s a pretty good number and I see the number of wild fish is up, too,” said Larry Swanson of Vancouver, a member of the bistate Columbia River Recreational Fishing Advisory Group. “It should be a pretty good season, but part will depend on how we share the catch above and below Bonneville Dam.”
Only a mediocre return of spring chinook is forecast to Oregon’s Willamette River.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is anticipating 55,700 adult spring chinook will enter the lower Columbia bound for the Willamette.
The 55,700 compares with an actual return of 47,300 in 2013. In the past decade, Willamette runs have ranged from 100,500 in 2010 to 27,016 in 2008. The average for the past 10 years is almost 53,000.
“I’m not impressed with this run,” said Robert Moxley of Oregon, a member of the Columbia River Recreational Advisory Group. “I think the Willamette can handle more. I’d like to see 100,000 with an 80-percent mark rate.”
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildife is predicting poor returns of 1,100 adult spring chinook back to the Lewis River, 500 to the Kalama and 7,800 to the Cowlitz.
The 2008-2017 management agreement between the states and Columbia River treaty tribes, along with other allocation arrangements, will allow a non-Indian catch of 22,700 upper Columbia spring chinook, Roler said.
Lower Columbia spring chinook will boost that harvest number, he added.
Directions from the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions split the non-Indian harvest at 70 percent for sportsmen and 30 percent for the commercials in 2014.
The forecast includes 209,700 4-year-olds, 16,600 5-year-olds and 700 6-year-olds.
State, federal and tribal biologists look at which watersheds the jacks returned, and how well jack returns predict the following year’s adults. The Snake River had a good return of jacks in 2013.
Larry Snyder, president of the Vancouver Wildlife League, agreed the spring chinook forecast is fair to good.
“It’s livable,” said Snyder, who caught 16 spring chinook in 2013. “It’s not bad. It will depend on water conditions. It’s so dry now. I hope in February we don’t get a deluge that blows us off the water.”
Woolsey noted that changes in the Columbia River allocation rules now give sportsmen a 70 percent share.
“All the numbers are sizing up to be good news for anglers — a better opportunity to take home a fish,” he said.
Summer chinook — The forecast is for 67,500 summer chinook. That compares to a forecast of 73,500 in 2013 and an actual return of 67,600.
Summer chinook pass Bonneville Dam between June 16 and July 31. They are larger than spring chinook and are mostly headed for the upper Columbia River in central Washington.
Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com