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'08 Chinook Fishery has Mixed Forecast

by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, June 10, 2007

While this year's spring chinook fisheries are winding down, many are looking into the crystal ball to see if next year will be feast or famine.

Fisheries managers are saying it could be a good-news, bad-news situation.

The early buzz is that the spring chinook return in 2008 could be a whopper as large as 300,000, which is similar to the huge runs in 2001 and 2002.

Fisheries managers use the 3-year-old jack chinook counts at Bonneville Dam to help predict the return of upper Columbia adult 4-year-old spring chinook the following year.

Through Thursday, the upriver jack chinook count was 18,169 at Bonneville, which points to an extraordinary return of jacks this year.

"In 2000, we saw a return of over 24,400 jack chinook, and the following year we had the mega-run of more than 400,000 fish [364,600 was the forecast]," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

"While the upriver Columbia jack counts could be the second highest on record, the Willamette River jack returns could be the lowest on record."

So far, 158 jack chinook have returned to the Willamette River, and last year's record low return was 190.

"It is tracking as a record low return, and to have back-to-back years of low jack counts is not a good thing," Hymer said. "The Willamette returns have a big impact on the lower river fisheries."

A strong jack chinook return in 2001 contributed to a return of more than 295,000 upriver spring chinook in 2002 under a forecast of 333,700. But a robust jack return in 2003 resulted in an actual return of less than 200,000 in 2004 under a forecast of 360,700.

Returns since then have decreased to 106,900 (254,100 forecast) in 2005, and 132,100 (88,400) in 2006.

In 2006, 3,856 jack chinook were counted at Bonneville through June 15, and this year's adult upriver spring chinook return is earmarked between 80,500 and 84,000.

Fisheries managers will formally release the 2008 spring chinook forecast just before Christmas.

"If you look at it one way it looks great, but if you look at it both ways it could be interesting for lower river fisheries next year," Hymer said.

Mark Yuasa
'08 Chinook Fishery has Mixed Forecast
Seattle Times, June 10, 2007

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