Steelhead Returns Sad
by David Moskowitz
The 2020 wild B-run Columbia River summer steelhead return was significantly upgraded in mid-September from the preseason forecast of 1,400 "unclipped" or wild fish to 7,900 fish. While this increase is welcome, the revised return is still only 60% of the 10-year average. The combined hatchery and wild B-run return (the so-called Index) is forecast to be 33,500 fish -- well above the preseason forecast -- but that return has been exceeded in 14 of the past 20 years.
What also remains disturbing is the lack of accuracy of the forecast models and the impacts of using these forecasts to set seasons in the Columbia.
The current return of hatchery and wild summer steelhead as of Oct. 14 is 106, 844 fish past Bonneville Dam. This number is 49% of the 2010-2019 average. The run is the eighth lowest count in the past 10 years. Try comparing 2020 to the largest wild summer steelhead return in the past 20 years (2009) when 165,867 wild steelhead had passed Bonneville during the same time frame. That would put the 2020 wild return thus far at a mere 25% of the robust 2009 wild return.
Another point of comparison -- the total 2020 hatchery and wild A and B-run will be barely larger than the average wild steelhead return between 2001 and 2010 (112,600 predicted verses 111,256 average).
While comparing this year to other years may not tell you everything, it can certainly tell you what you have lost over time.
Fisheries Managers Forecast 'Unprecedentedly Low' Summer Steelhead by George Plaven, East Oregonian, 5/22/17
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