The Bonneville Dam fish ladder. (Photo: www.marietta.edu)
Northwest sockeye return skyrocket
Monday, July 02, 2012, 04:30 (GMT + 9)
The predicted sockeye salmon return to Columbia River basin has boomed above expectations but the summer chinook return is well below what was expected.
The Bonneville Dam counts of sockeye has totalled 321,462 fish through Wednesday, 27 June. Based on the 10-year average, passage is typically 50 per cent complete by 25 June, but it has been as late as 1 July. The preseason sockeye forecast is 462,000 adult fish at the Columbia River mouth -- the largest return since at least 1938.
But on 28 June, the sockeye run was updated to 540,000 at the river mouth by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) made up of Washington, Oregon and tribal fisheries managers, The Seattle Times reports.
"Sockeye fishing is tapering off a little bit, and the water flows have come up and has dampened the catch, but they are still doing well maybe just not as well as they had been doing," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
This year's run is expected to be the best since 1923 when the run was believed to be over 700,000.
Biologists attribute the higher numbers to habitat improvements in the Okanagan Basin of northern Washington and Canada, better dam operations and beneficial ocean conditions, AP reports.
The Bonneville Dam counts of adult upper Columbia summer chinook total is 23,070 fish from 16-27 June. Based on the 10-year average, passage is typically 50 per cent complete by 29 June, but could take as long as 1 July.
The preseason forecast is 91,200 adult chinook at the Columbia River mouth -- the largest since at least 1980. But the TAC has downgraded the return at the mouth of the river to 54,000 adults.
As planned, fishing for summer chinook and sockeye below Bonneville Dam will close on 2 July while hatchery-marked steelhead fishing will stay open.
Summer chinook and sockeye fishing between Bonneville Dam and Priest Rapids Dam will be allowed through 31 July.
Meanwhile, Alaska commercial fishers are struggling in light of closures and other conservation measures implemented to address poor chinook salmon returns to several major Alaska rivers.
The chinook salmon outlook for the Kuskokwim River was estimated for a run below the average total of 260,000 fish and, unless the run is exceptionally late, early indications are that it may be the worst run ever documented.
- Chinook salmon's return causes disappointment
By Natalia Real