Chinook returns in Columbia River could be near-record low
Spring chinook salmon could return on the Columbia River in the second lowest numbers in 21 years, according to Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
This year’s forecasted return of 81,700 upriver spring chinook is up 12% from last year’s return of 73,100, which was the lowest since 1999, the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., reported Sunday.
The record low return was just 12,000 fish in 1995.
The projected return this year is just 43% of the 10-year average for chinook returning to hatcheries and spawning areas upriver from the Bonneville Dam.
Poor ocean conditions continue to play a significant role in lower projected returns, said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River policy coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
New fishing regulations for the Columbia River – from about six miles (9.6 kilometers) below the The Dalles Dam upstream to the Oregon and Washington state line above McNary Dam – set the season at April 1 through May 5.
Anglers can retain either two hatchery steelhead or a hatchery chinook and a hatchery steelhead per day. Hatchery fish have a clipped adipose fin, which is just above the tail fin.
Barbless hooks will be required.
The expected harvest is about 340 adult chinook above the Bonneville Dam and 2,500 below it.
Fishing regulations have yet to be set for this year for spring chinook on the Snake River, but the catch is expected to be similarly constrained.
“Conservation management is critical when ocean conditions are having a detrimental impact to chinook survival like they have in recent years,” Lothrop said.