Springer Run Size Bumped Up Again; SW WA, Columbia Fish Report (5-16-11)

The Columbia spring Chinook run was upsized again today. Federal, tribal and state salmon managers now expect a range of 217,000 to 237,000 to return to the mouth of the big river this season.

Last week they updated the return to 210,000 from 198,400 based on a very strong start to May.

In recent days, however, the count at the Bonneville fish ladder has dropped. It was just under 3,100 on Sunday, bringing the dam tally to 149,312.

Fisheries biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver points out that flows there have also spiked from the mid-200,000-cubic-foot-per-second range to the high 300,000s today — and they’re forecast to hit 525,000 cfs this week.

“It’s going to be huge,” he says of the Columbia.

As for the fishing report, he says that anglers “did well” on yesterday’s reopener on the lower river, catching “lots of jacks and some adults.”

Indeed, if anything’s kept pace — well, sorta — with the flows it’s the jack count which now appears to be the second best on record. It sits at 27,636 through Sunday, better than all except one year back through 1960, and not too far behind 2009’s insane return at this same point.

“It’s a definite positive,” says Hymer. “It’s telling us there’s still good survival.”

Columbia springers return as 3-year-olds — or jacks as they’re known — 4s and 5s, and the strength of one year-class gives managers a glimpse of the following year’s return because most jacks stay at sea while a large percentage of the 4s and 5s return.

While the new runsize prediction is a fair ways from the current count of 149,000-plus, Hymer points out that somewhere around 12,000 were intercepted between the river’s mouth and Bonneville by sport and commercial anglers — who knows how many the sea lions have taken — and that June will probably see another “blip” as Snake River summers — which are lumped in with springers in the forecast — make their way up the Columbia.

He says that managers will continue to monitor the count to figure out if there’s additional fishing opportunity — say, in the mid-Columbia and Snake, perhaps, where salmon anglers are otherwise twiddling their thumbs.

Otherwise, Idaho rivers are open though rivers there are also high and fishing is real slow.

Meanwhile, Hymer’s also been busy with his Monday fishing roundup. To wit:


Cowlitz River – Anglers on the lower river and in particular at the barrier dam are catching adult and jack spring chinook.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 213 winter-run steelhead, twelve summer-run steelhead, 177 spring chinook adults, and 97 jacks during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 20 winter-run steelhead, four spring chinook adults and 79 jacks into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam and two winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 10,600 cubic feet per second on Monday, May 16. Water visibility is seven feet.

Kalama River – Some spring chinook and steelhead are being caught.  Through May 13, a total of 9 adult spring chinook (including 3 unmarked fish) had returned to the trap at Kalama Falls Hatchery.  The escapement goal is 400 fish for hatchery brood stock.

Lewis River – Light effort and catch.  A total of 69 adult spring Chinook had entered the Merwin Dam trap as of May 13.  The hatchery escapement goal is 1,300 fish.

Flows at Merwin Dam are 2,900 cfs today which is just over half the long-term mean of 4,850 cfs for this date.

Wind River – The mouth has slowed a bit since earlier in the week last week.  Quite a few jacks in the catch.

Drano Lake – Same here, slowed a bit since earlier in the week last week and quite a few jacks around.  Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery opened the ladder for just under a day last week and over 1,550 adults and 110 jacks entered the trap.  The escapement goal is 1,000 fish.

Klickitat River – Spring chinook catches improved last week.  Some steelhead were also found in the catch.

From Joe Zendt Fisheries Biologist Yakama Nation Fisheries Program – Lyle Falls adult trapping is still intermittent due to fishway improvement construction and high flows this week but there have been a handful of spring chinook adults (~50 or less) pass through the fishway.  No reports of any returns to the hatchery yet.

Yakima River – From Paul Hoffarth, WDFW District 4 Fish Biologist in Pasco – WDFW staff interviewed anglers fishing the Yakima River three days during the past week. Only two anglers were fishing for salmon and they had no catch.

After nearly reaching historical daily high flows of 6,000 cfs for May 15, the river is expected to drop the next several days.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Lots of jacks and pretty good effort on yesterday’s re-opener!  We sampled 305 salmonid anglers (including 56 boats) with 27 adult and 65 jack spring chinook and 4 steelhead.  19 (70%) of the adult and 57 (88%) of the jacks were kept as were all of the steelhead.

We sampled 13 (68%) of the adult and 32 (56%) of the jacks and all of the steelhead kept.    10 (77%) of the adults and 30 (94%) of the jacks sampled were upriver origin based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI.

Despite the crummy weather, just over 400 boats and 466 bank anglers were counted during yesterday’s flight.

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) met today and upgraded the adult upriver run size to 217,000-237,000 fish returning to the mouth of the Columbia.  The pre-season forecast was 198,400.

Flows at Bonneville Dam are expected to reach a whopping 525,000 cfs late tomorrow evening (see http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/station/flowplot/textPlot.cgi?id=BONO3&pe=QI).

Ringold – From Paul Hoffarth – Fishing remains slow and flows are high.  An estimated 9 adult hatchery and 2 hatchery jacks have been harvested from May 1 to 15. In addition 6 adult wild spring Chinook and 2 wild Chinook jacks have been caught and released.


Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – No sturgeon creel data is currently available.

Sturgeon retention was allowed from the mouth upstream to the sturgeon spawning sanctuary boundary (navigation marker 82 line) on Saturday May 15.  There were almost 150 private boats and a couple charters plus 66 bank anglers counted during the Saturday flight.  On Sunday when below Wauna was open for retention but catch and release only above, there were just 20 private boats and 1 charter and no bank anglers counted.

The Dalles Pool – Bank anglers are catching some legals.


The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, boat anglers averaging an impressive 5 walleye and 25 bass per rod!


Klineline Pond – 57 bank anglers kept 111 trout.  Worms under a bobber produced good results.

Fort Borst Park Pond near Centralia (juvenile waters only) – Planted with 3,500 catchable size rainbows May 9.  No report on angling success.

Battleground Lake – Planted with 4,550 catchable size rainbows May 10.  No report on angling success.


Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – Opened to fishing for shad today (May 16).  No report on angling success.  Only a few dozen fish have crossed Bonneville Dam to date.

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