Coho forecasts for the Columbia River this fall have been cut in half — at least unofficially.
Government biologists initially predicted a coho run to the Columbia River in 2015 of 540,000 fish.
On Wednesday, biologist Jeff Whisler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Columbia River Compact there is “uncertainty in the actual Columbia River coho return,’’ but there is still room for commercial fishing at a reduced run of 260,000.
Sport and commercial fishing for coho in the lower Columbia is governed by federal Endangered Species Act limits on the catch of natural-origin fish headed for lower Columbia tributaries.
The compact adopted two commercial fishing periods:
• The netters will fish from 8 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday with 8-inch-minimum mesh from the coast to Beacon Rock. The fleet is projected to catch more than 1,000 chinook and 50 coho.
• Netting with 6-inch-minimum mesh will be allowed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday from Warrior Rock at the downstream end of Sauvie Island to the coast. A catch of 1,500 coho and 300 chinook is projected.
Whisler said the two fishing periods “do not come close’’ to using up the natural coho allowance under the Endangered Species Act.
He also said the return of early-stock coho to waters upstream of Bonneville Dam was very poor and the counts so far for the late stock are not encouraging.
It’s too early to predict returns to lower Columbia tributaries, but downgrades are anticipated.
Washington and Oregon officials are expected to meet again next week to determine if more commercial fishing periods can be adopted.