Salmon in fish ladder at Bonneville Dam

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Two recent fishery reports agree salmon fishing in the Columbia River should be good this year.

The outlook for Columbia River salmon fishing is good for 2016 according to release by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. “As in recent years, Chinook salmon will make up the bulk of the run,” Bill Tweit of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told the council. “Not as great as in some recent years, but good as in average or better for most species,” the report stated.

A report released Mar. 14 by the Pacific Fishery Management Council generally agreed with the Columbia River assessment, but added not all fisheries fared as well. “The mix of salmon runs this year is unusual,” said outgoing Executive Director Donald McIssac. “In the north, return of fall Chinook to the Columbia River is forecast to be exceptionally high again, but expectations for wild coho runs to Washington Coast and Puget Sound areas can only be described as disastrous.”

Tweit said, “the total returns this year (in the Columbia River) are predicted to be well above average, potentially as many as 2.1 million fish – not quite the eye-popping numbers we’ve seen in the previous years, but still very healthy, driven again by fall Chinook.”

The Power Council report focus mainly on Columbia River runs, while the Pacific Fisheries report took a broader look at ocean fish runs.

Both reports stated environmental factors affected the size of the runs. The ocean is warming, leading to a decline in the abundance and nutritional value of food for salmon, the Pacific Fisheries report stated “This will be a challenging year for salmon fisheries. Several key stocks are less abundant than usual due to environmental conditions like the California drought and El Nino,” said Pacific Fisheries Council Vice-Chair Herb Pollard.

The Power Council report said success of the sockeye run depended on Columbia River conditions, which turned lethal last summer when the water temperature rose above 70 degrees.

The Power Council forecast the sockeye salmon return in the Columbia to be only about twenty percent of the huge return seen last year, or 101,600 fish. The summer steelhead run is expected to be 265,400 fish, about the same as last year. And coho salmon are forecast to reach 300,000 fish, a substantial increase from last year’s 171,400.

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