Steelie Run Sets Record Thru July 7

Even as the sockeye count at Bonneville continues to crush the old record, the number of steelhead at the dam 145 miles up the Columbia River also set a new high mark through yesterday.

“Another day, another new record!” notes that fish-ladder watcher Joe Hymer in Vancouver in an email fired off to fellow fishheads around the Northwest. “The 54,357 steelhead counted at Bonneville Dam through July 7 is a new record! The previous record was 50,361 fish in 2001.”

That year saw a final count of 636,460; last year saw 603,264.

The overall sockeye count now stands at just under 358,000, 11,000 more than the previous record at Bonneville that dates from 1947, and nearly three times the preseason forecast.

“Sockeye probably share the same areas in the ocean. Probably what’s good for sockeye was good for steelhead,” Hymer says.

The steelhead count has also been boosted by big early returns of Skamanias, a type of summer-run steelhead, to tribs like the Klickitat.

Overall, this year’s forecast is 453,000 Skamanias, A-runs and B-runs, of which 73 percent will be keepable hatchery fish.

However, the wild component has been stronger so far.

“In the sport catch, quite a few wild fish are being released, which is a good sign,” says Hymer, crediting good outmigrating and ocean conditions.

At least 45 percent of steelhead passing the dam “have been wild based upon observations of presence/absence of adipose fins of fish passing the counter windows,” he notes.

In other news, federal, tribal and state fishery managers today downgraded the return of summer Chinook back to the mouth of the Columbia to 75,000, 13,000 fewer than originally forecast and 7,000 below the inseason run update out last week.

They also kept the sockeye forecast at 375,000 which, they claim, “should also allow the (Lake) Wenatchee escapement goal of 23,000 to be met.” When we spoke to the regional manager about a fishery there, he said he wasn’t in much of a gambling mood and would instead rely on counts at Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River to ensure enough were coming.

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