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Ecology and salmon related articles

Forecasts Raised Again for Summer Chinook, Sockeye

by CBB Staff
Chinook Observer, July 24, 2015

... several thought that no one should be fishing at all while the water is so warm and urged
the states and tribes to be conservative when approving any commercial fishing this time of year.

Travis Brown, assistant manager at the Eagle Fish Hatchery, checks a sockeye salmon for a Passive Integrated Transponders tag at the hatchery on Wednesday. Idaho Fish and Game processed five sockeye that it trucked from Lower Granite Dam 20 miles downstream of Lewiston. (Photo: Kyle Green) The Compact set a 12-hour fishery for non-Indian gillnetters, 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, to 7 a.m Wednesday, July 22

The forecast number of summer Chinook and sockeye salmon that will pass Bonneville Dam was increased again last week -- the third week in a row the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee's forecast has risen.

With the updated forecast, more fish became available for commercial fishing. Both the treaty Indian gillnetters and the lower Columbia River commercial gillnetters set their nets last week. The recreational salmon fishery remains open.

TAC met July 20, changing to 120,000 fish its forecasted estimate of adult summer Chinook this year. The run size is now expected to be the largest since 1960. During the week of July 12-18, TAC set its forecast at 108,000 Chinook and the previous week the estimate was 100,000.

With the continued high daily counts of Chinook still passing Bonneville Dam, by the end of July the forecast could even be higher, according to Stewart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and a member of TAC.

"It's remarkable to have the largest run since 1960," said Guy Norman representing Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife director Jim Unsworth at the Compact. "And, it's good news for summer Chinook recovery in the Columbia River."

Nearly one-half of the summer Chinook run is unmarked and considered wild, according to Jeff Whistler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the other partner in the two-state Compact.

The next best run year, Whistler said, was 2003 when 88,000 summer Chinook passed Bonneville Dam.

Summer Chinook are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and are considered a healthy run of fish. All are destined for Priest Rapids Dam and upstream.

TAC also forecasted 507,500 sockeye salmon, making this year's run the third largest on record. The week of July 12-18, the forecast was 500,000 sockeye and the week before the run estimate stood at 480,000.

These numbers come after last week when the two-state Columbia River Compact closed the Columbia River upstream of Bonneville Dam to all recreational sturgeon fishing after at least 80 sturgeon died due to the warmer than usual water temperature. In addition, Oregon closed the Willamette River below Willamette Falls, also due to fish deaths caused by a temperature-induced bacteria.

Gillnet opening disrupted

In addition, last week the Compact rescinded a 12-hour lower river planned commercial salmon gillnet opening, a move gillnetters said disrupted the fresh Chinook salmon market.

"This is really positive data, but it looked positive last week too when the season was rescinded," said Les Clark, a commercial gillnetter from Chinook. "That really caused market problems. Some had already pre-sold their fish. So, how many fish passed Bonneville Dam during the last week?"

According to Whistler, during the week of July 13 to July 19, 18,000 summer Chinook passed the dam.

Not everyone was in favor of reopening the river to commercial fishing. One commenter opposed the non-Indian commercial opening because of its potential impact on sturgeon fishing in the lower river. Another opposed non-treaty commercial fishing lower in the river due to assumed ESA-listed steelhead mortality and several thought that no one should be fishing at all while the water is so warm and urged the states and tribes to be conservative when approving any commercial fishing this time of year.

Lower Columbia River gillnetters are allowed 2 percent of the run of upriver ESA-listed steelhead July through October, said Robin Ehlke of WDFW. At this point, she said, the number that commercial gillnetters have taken is 14 fish.

Low conversion rate

While the number of summer Chinook salmon that pass Bonneville is at record highs, the number of fish making it to the upstream side of Priest Rapids Dam -- the conversion rate -- is seasonally low. Ellis said that about 100,000 have passed Bonneville Dam, but just 53,000 have made it to Priest Rapids.

"That's kind of a poor conversion rate," he said. "Usually, the count is at a higher rate than that."

About 55,000 fish have made it to Rock Island Dam, which is two dams upstream of Priest Rapids Dam. Ellis said seeing more fish at Rock Island Dam than at Priest Rapids Dam, a downstream dam, is just a counting anomaly. Going upstream from Rock Island, 44,000 fish have made it to Rocky Reach Dam and about 27,000 have passed Wells Dam. "So, they are moving upstream," Ellis said.

The Compact set a 3.5 day treaty Indian gillnet fishery Tuesday, July 21, 6 a.m. through 6 p.m. Friday, July 24. This was the sixth weekly fishery (all 3.5 days long) in which gillnetters have taken 33,077 Chinook salmon for the first five weeks and Compact staff expected the fishery will add another 5,000 Chinook last week. The updated allotment is 39,832 fish and, after last week, the remaining allotment for treaty gillnet fishing was expected to be 1,755 Chinook.

Treaty gillnetters have also taken 27,586 sockeye salmon and were expected to catch another 2,400 last week.

The updated allotment is 35,525 fish and, after last week, the remaining allotment for sockeye is expected to be 5,539 fish.

In addition, they have taken 1,170 steelhead and were expected to catch an additional 700 steelhead last week. An allotment is not set.

The Compact set a 12-hour fishery for non-Indian gillnetters, 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, to 7 a.m. Wednesday, July 22.

Two non-Indian commercial summer Chinook fisheries have already occurred, with catches of 3,298 summer Chinook and 315 sockeye. The catch so far represents 87 percent of the 3,794 summer Chinook allotment. A balance of 496 fish remain for commercial harvest. The catch last week was estimated at about 500 fish.

Total non-Indian harvest of summer Chinook downstream of Priest Rapids Dam is expected to total 9,500 summer Chinook by the end of July. That includes the recreational harvest. The allocation for both recreational and non-Indian commercial fishing is 12,645 summer Chinook.

Total sockeye harvest downstream of Priest Rapids is 1,500 fish.

Related Pages:
Sockeye Salmon Suffer Infections in Warm Columbia River System by Rich Landers, Spokesman-Review, 7/17/15
Forecasts Raised Again for Summer Chinook, Sockeye by Associated Press, The Oregonian, 7/18/15

CBB Staff
Forecasts Raised Again for Summer Chinook, Sockeye
Chinook Observer, July 24, 2015

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