Jack Count Soaring

I don’t mean to take away from tomorrow’s Lower Columbia reopener for spring Chinook, but, umm, have you seen the jack count lately?

A total of 18,530 of ’em have gone through Bonneville Dam so far this year, and even though counting continues through May 31, it’s already among the top four tallies on record and at their current pace will almost assuredly move into second place by the time the weekend is over.

Only three years top it, according to data from the Fish Passage Center — 66,631 in 2009; 21,259 in 2000; and 20,835 in 1976 –and those are figures for the whole run.

Recent days have seen as many as 3,400 and 3,900 rush the dam; high marks in 2009 including 4,900- and 5,700-jack days.

Why am I burning your eyes up with this info? Jacks are seen as one indicator of the next year’s returns. The 2001 and 2010 springer runs were two of the three largest on record, though the 1977 return wasn’t much to write home about (well, at least compared to runs this millenium).

At one time jack counts figured heavily into Columbia salmon managers’ forecasting tools, but in the past two years they’ve looked at many more factors in making their predictions.

For what it’s worth, something to watch.

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