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News / Sports / Outdoors

Big fall chinook salmon run forecast for Columbia River

Prediction highest since return in 2004

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter
Published: March 4, 2010, 12:00am

Clean up the big, bright wobblers, spinners and other fall chinook salmon lures, because a strong run is forecast to enter the Columbia River in 2010, up 56 percent from a year ago.

State biologists are predicting 652,700 fall chinook will return in August, September and October, with big showings anticipated in the stocks that fuel angling at Buoy 10 and in the lower Columbia.

Fall chinook returning to the Columbia are broken down into six stocks based on their eventual destination in the watershed.

Chinook headed for hatcheries in the Bonneville pool are predicted to be up from 49,000 in 2009 to 169,000 this year. Those fish bite well off the southern Washington coast and especially at Buoy 10, the popular late-summer estuary fishery in the lower 16 miles of the river.

Another important stock — called upriver brights and headed for the Hanford Reach near the Tri-Cities — are anticipated to number 310,800, up from 212,000 in 2009.

Upriver brights are the premier fall chinook stock. They are big contributors to the sport catch in places like the mouth of the Cowlitz, Kalama, Vancouver and along Government Island.

Returns to lower Columbia hatcheries are expected to increase from 76,700 in 2009 to 90,600 in 2010. This is important because protecting that stock often limits harvest on more abundant stocks.

The lower Columbia wild stock — primarily fish headed for the North Fork of the Lewis River, also is forecast to be up from 7,500 in 2009 to 9,700 in 2010. Some of those fish also spawn in the Cowlitz and Sandy rivers.

Coho — On the down side, after a return of 1,055,500 coho in 2009, the forecast for 2010 is just 389,500.

The prediction for early coho in the Columbia is 245,300 compared to 681,400 a year ago. Early coho enter the river in August and early September, and are key to a good fishery at Buoy 10.

The forecast for late coho in the Columbia is 144,200, compared to 374,100 a year ago. Late coho enter the river from late September into November, and contribute to the catch at spots like Lady Island near Camas.

Schedule — Planning for summer and fall sport and commercial fisheries began on Tuesday, with an unveiling of the forecasts in Olympia and initial discussions among fishing groups.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet next week in Sacramento to option preliminary options for ocean salmon seasons.

A discussion of fisheries in the Columbia River will begin at 9 a.m. March 15 at the YMCA community room, 3609 Main St.

The PFMC will meet April 10-15 at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel to adopt the ocean salmon regulations and details for fishing in the Columbia River and other inland waters will be finalized.

Columbian Outdoors Reporter