Salmon run way under forecast – 05/14/2004

  • September 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm #473

    Thursday, May 13, 2004
    ALLEN THOMAS Columbian staff writer

    The spring chinook salmon run headed for the upper Columbia and Snake
    rivers appears to be 48 percent smaller than predicted.

    State, federal and tribal biologists have updated the forecast,
    downgrading it from a prediction of 360,700 in December to 189,200
    adult chinook.

    Although counts at Bonneville Dam were small in March and early
    April, that was expected because the early returning 5-year-old
    component was anticipated to be 6 percent of the run.

    But the 4-year-olds, which peak in mid-April at Bonneville, just
    never showed the expected strength. Chinook passing Bonneville
    through May 31 are considered the spring race.

    If the run is 189,200, state fishery officials exceeded their
    allowed take under the federal Endangered Species Act, although not

    Wild spring chinook headed for the upper Columbia and Snake
    rivers are protected under the ESA. An agreement between the states,
    federal government and treaty Indian tribes limits non-Indians to
    killing no more than 2 percent of the wild fish.

    Sport and commercial seasons in the lower Columbia target on the
    plentiful hatchery-origin chinook. Both groups release wild fish.
    Still, some wild fish die despite being released. Those dead fish are
    called “impacts.”

    State biologists calculate and monitor during the season how fast
    those impacts are being used to ensure the 2 percent ceiling is not

    Although state managers set aside significant buffers to be sure
    the 2 percent ceiling was not achieved, no one anticipated the actual
    spring chinook run would be so far under the forecast.

    If the run is 189,200, the non-Indian impacts are about 2.5

    “Our management was responsible and conservative in all the
    fisheries,” said Cindy LeFleur of the Washington Department of Fish
    and Wildlife.

    Although predictions are generally a little high or a little low,
    the average of overages and underages is a 99 percent accuracy rate,
    she said.

    In February, March and April downstream of Bonneville Dam, there
    were 164,000 fishing trips with a total catch of 33,450 spring
    chinook and a kept catch of 25,624.

    In March, the commercial fleet caught 18,576 chinook and kept
    13,546 fish. Another 7,300 chinook were caught and kept in off-
    channel areas such as Youngs Bay, Blind Slough and Deep River.

    Commercial fisheries in the off-channel areas were closed
    indefinitely last week to avoid any incidental catch of upper
    Columbia chinook, which is historically small in those areas.

    Sport fishing in a portion of the Snake River also was closed to
    prevent any additional spring chinook harvest.

    Tribal fishermen between Bonneville and McNary dams are allowed
    to catch 9 percent of the spring salmon run. They are projected to be
    at 8.1 percent at the end of netting on Friday.

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