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News / Sports / Outdoors

Columbia River spring chinook run below average so far but peak still to come

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 17, 2023, 6:02am
2 Photos
Anglers gather on the Columbia River on Tuesday, as seen from Waterfront Park. As of April 13, spring chinook runs are below the 10-year average, 637 compared to 2,210 on the same date.
Anglers gather on the Columbia River on Tuesday, as seen from Waterfront Park. As of April 13, spring chinook runs are below the 10-year average, 637 compared to 2,210 on the same date. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Spring chinook, brandishing their silver bellies, are making a bright return through the Columbia River’s blue waters. And so, too, anglers are preparing to gather along the river’s main stem and its channels.

As of April 13, 637 spring chinook have passed Bonneville Dam, which is below the 10-year average of 2,210 on the same date.

Ben Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson, said it’s important to note that these are early numbers, as runs vary from year to year and don’t hit a peak until late April or early May. Lasting cool temperatures from a frigid March may also slow their timing.

Washington and Oregon fishery managers forecast this year’s fishing seasons for the Columbia River to look similar to 2022, with upriver spring Chinook expected to fall just short of 200,000.

In 2022, spring Chinook returns were roughly 185,200. These are both higher than the 10-year average return of 150,485.

The Columbia River spring chinook salmon season was closed as of April 12, with no fishing for that species allowed until sometime in mid-May.

Fish managers will reassess run sizes in mid-May with an update soon to follow.

Spring chinook, also known simply as springers, have migrated more than 100 miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean to Bonneville Dam where some will climb up fish ladders or be greeted by eager hooks. They will also appear in the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers.

Other fish like steelhead and smelt may also weave along Columbia’s currents at this point in the year, the latter of which are listed as an endangered species. They were recorded at Bonneville Dam this year for the first time since 2014, Anderson said.

Fish Passage Center’s daily salmon counts can be found on www.fpc.org.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer