A monster run of coho totaling almost 1 million fish is forecast to return to the Columbia River this fall in addition to another huge surge of chinook.
The specific fall chinook predictions are not yet out, but Washington and Oregon predict 964,100 adult coho salmon will be off the coast this summer destined to enter the Columbia River.
In 2013, there were 316,900 Columbia River coho.
“That number should provide opportunity at Buoy 10 with some coho in it,” said Steve Watrous of Vancouver, Washington sport fishing representative on the Salmon Advisory Subpanel of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. “We’ve not seen that in several years. There should be some pretty decent coho fishing this summer.”
Buoy 10 is the name of the August-early September salmon season between Buoy No. 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River and a line 16 miles upstream stretching between Tongue Point in Oregon and Rocky Point in Washington.
Once predominantly coho fishing on strong flood tides, Buoy 10 has largely become a chinook fishery upstream of the Astoria Bridge focused on soft ebb tides.
In 2013, anglers at Buoy 10 caught 28,000 chinook at Buoy 10 but only 10,400 coho.
Ocean fishing off the Columbia River mouth also has suffered from poor coho numbers in recent years.
In 2013, only about half the coho quota had been caught by Labor Day. State sampling often showed catch averages of only about a fish per rod.
Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it appears coho are the beneficiaries of good ocean conditions, same as the big fall chinook runs.
“This should provide very good off-shore coho fishing, as well,” Watrous said. “The last few years in the ocean it’s been more like hunting for coho than fishing.”
One million coho generally is considered the magic number to provide gang-buster coho fishing at Buoy 10.
The forecast calls for 526,600 early-stock coho and 427,500 late-stock coho.
Early coho enter the Columbia from mid-August until mid-September. They tend to be a south-migrating stock once they leave the Columbia River mouth when entering the ocean.
“Early-stock is the predominant one down at Buoy 10 when the fleet is down there fishing for chinook,” Watrous said.
Late coho enter the Columbia in October and November. They are a north-migrating stock. Washington and Oregon are trying to improve commercial catches of late coho as part of the Columbia River reform package initiated in 2012.
“It’s beautiful,” said Butch Smith, owner of Coho Charters in Ilwaco. “We should have a great ocean and good Buoy 10 season.”
Smith said he is encouraged by the late coho forecast, too.
In the past few years, angling slows substantially about Aug. 20 when the chinook head up the Columbia, he said.
“With that late (coho) number, fishing should be continuously good from the opening to the end,” he said. “There should be a continuous flow of fish.”
Season planning — Forecasts for the Columbia River, coastal and Puget Sound salmon runs will be presented at a public meeting beginning at 9 a.m. March 3 in Room No. 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 S.E. Washington St. S.E., Olympia.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council will adopt a range of ocean fishing options when it meets in Sacramento, Calif., on March 8 to 13.
A public meeting to discuss Columbia River fall sport and commercial fisheries will begin at 10 a.m. March 17 at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way.
Final ocean fishing plans and connected inland fisheries such as the Columbia River will be adopted when the Pacific Fishery Management Council meets April 5 to 10 at the Hilton Vancouver, 301 W. Sixth St.