And Why Not One Last Columbia Springer Update?

It’s back up — the Columbia upriver-bound spring Chinook forecast.

As the run has surged and ebbed this spring with the surge and ebb of the mighty river’s flows, managers have also been yo-yoing with their expectation of how many of the salmon will return to the mouth of the Columbia, upsizing it, boosting it again but disagreeing on how high it might go, lowering it, dropping some more and now reversing course.

MOLLY FRANCIS SHOWS OFF A SWEET CHINOOK CAUGHT OFF THE BEACH THIS WEEK. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

Here’s how the forecast has changed this season:

Preseason forecast: 198,400

With the run late or small and river flows high and cold, it wasn’t until early May that managers could update the return. What they saw during the first 10 days of May was the highest springer count for that period in the 2000s — 90,842, 72 percent of the run through the 10th — and one of the six best days of all time.

First inseason update: 210,000

From there the adult run began to tail off and the jack count pick up. Even so, on May 16 managers issued another update.

Second inseason update: 217,000 to 237,000

Through May 24, with the overall Bonneville count at 160,000 plus 10,000 or so caught below the dam, but daily counts down to the 600s (a function probably of high flows), managers ratcheted their predictions backwards a hair.

Third inseason update: 213,400

Through the end of May the dam count was 167,000 and with only 15 days officially left in the springer run, on June 1 the return was dropped by nearly 10,000.

Fourth inseason update: 204,000

But in the week afterwards and on the backs of a series of 2,500-fish days, today they added 10K back the bank account.

Fifth inseason update: 214,000

By the way, the jack count at Bonnie is just under 60,000, second only to the 82,000 that went over in 2009 and may have been one of the factors that lead to 2010’s big run, the third best on record.

As it stands, the increased adult run size above 198,400 — as well as high flows that have limited the catch for boaters though bankies have done well — allowed extended fishing periods on the spring stock below and above Bonneville, including a season right up to the otherwise scheduled June 16 summer king opener. It appears that nontribal and tribal anglers will come in below quotas.

Here are projected catches for all fleets:

Preliminary summary of 2011 Non-Indian upriver Chinook Catch

Fishery Mortalities
Mainstem commercial    3,467
Select Area comm.  (proj. to June 15)    272
Lower Col. R. Sport (proj. to June 15)    8,700
Z6 Sport  (proj. to June 15)    2,657
Snake River/Ringold sport    1,964
Actual and Projected season total    17,060
Allowed based on current run size    19,474

The mainstem commercial fisheries occurred below the mouth of the Willamette.

The select area commercial fisheries occurred in off-channel bays near Astoria.

The Lower Columbia sport fishery is ongoing below Bonneville Dam.

The Z6, or Zone 6, sport fishery is from Bonneville east to the state line just upstream of McNary Dam.

The Snake River/Ringold includes parts of Washington’s lower Snake and the Ringold hatchery area north of Tri-Cities.

2011 Treaty Indian Spring Chinook Fisheries
Ceremonial Permits 8,947
Zone 6 Platform/H&L 6,100
Downstream of Bonneville Dam Hook and Line 2,300
Actual catch through June 4 17,347
Projected catch (June 5-15) from ongoing fisheries 1,200
Actual and Projected season total 18,547
Allowed based on current run size 19,474
Balance 927
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