For Want Of 8 Measly Steelhead

Last year’s outlandishly high steelhead catch on the Lower Columbia River was nearly beaten last month.

A preliminary estimate of July 2010’s creel from Bonneville Dam to Astoria shows that anglers kept 8,213 of the hatchery sea-run rainbow trout, eight fewer than the 8,221 bonked in July 2009 — the most since the early 1970s, it’s believed.

But remember, notes Joe Hymer, a fisheries biologist in Vancouver who watches all these numbers like a fish hawk, that the 8,213 figure is not final.

Washington-side bank anglers actually had the best luck this season, keeping 4,110 of the 8,213 while their counterparts standing on the southern shore harvested 1,063. Boat anglers from both states put 3,040 in the fish box.

Both summer’s summer runs have been fueled by very large runs, over 600,000 in 2009 and 197,512 since April 1 as of yesterday, Aug. 2. The 10-year average is 126,081.

Interestingly, over 46 percent of this year’s run so far has been wild steelhead, and Oregon bankies and sledders both released more unclipped fish than they kept.

Since June 16, a total of 10,115 steelhead have been kept, 7,961 released.

Anglers released five times as many sockeye as they kept during that period; retention didn’t begin until June 26, however.

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