Lower Columbia River Steelhead
by Mark Yuasa
State Fish and Wildlife has decided to delay the Lower Columbia River steelhead fishing opener, which was scheduled to open this Saturday, May 16, from the I-5 Bridge downstream until further notice.
The closure was necessary because fisheries managers worried about the incidental catches of a much lower than forecast adult spring chinook return.
State and tribal fisheries managers earlier this week updated the adult spring chinook return between 120,000 and 150,000, which is well below the original forecast of 298,000.
The steelhead closure could extend as late as June 16, unless returns of upriver spring chinook begin to pick up, said Cindy LeFleur, a state Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy coordinator.
"For the second straight year, returns of upriver spring chinook have fallen short of expectations," LeFleur said. "It's disappointing that we have to delay the steelhead fishery, but we need to do everything we can to conserve wild chinook salmon still in the river."
Shad fishing will open up on May 16 as scheduled below Bonneville Dam.
Even with more spring chinook expected to make their way up Bonneville in the coming weeks it is highly doubtful that the run size would be anywhere near the original forecast.
While news on the adult fish returns may be bad the younger three-year-old jack spring chinook, which are used to predict what will return next year as adults is at an all-time record high.
Through May 12, a new record of 28,120 jacks have been counted at Bonneville. The old record, which includes counting through June 15, was 24,363 in 2000. In 2001 a record 416,500 adult spring chinook returned.
The single day count on May 12 showed more jacks (4,700) than adults (3,800) counted at Bonneville.
On the other hand last year's jack count of 22,352 was the second best, and it had forecasted a strong return of adult fish this spring, which didn't pan out.
Chinook returning to the freshwater one or two years earlier than their counterparts, and are commonly referred to as "jacks."
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