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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

December 14, 2009 at 7:12 PM

Lower Columbia River tributaries are also expecting better returns of spring chinook

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More good news continues to roll out of the mighty Columbia River, and this time the lower river tributaries should see improved spring chinook returns.

If last week’s announcement of a predicted 470,000 upriver spring chinook expected back to the Columbia wasn’t enough, the 2010 preseason forecast for the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers is 19,400 adult spring chinook.

This past spring, a total of 7,200 adult spring chinook were predicted to return to the all three Lower Columbia tributaries on the Washington side, and the actual return was right on par at 7,200. The three-year-old jack returns were improved and in some cases the highest in years.

In the Cowlitz River the 2009 actual adult return was 4,900 (preseason forecast was 4,100). The Cowlitz had the largest three-year-old jack return since the early 1990s.

The 2010 preseason forecast for the Cowlitz is 12,500 adult chinook, and would be twice the recent five year average.

In the Kalama River the 2009 actual adult return was 350 (preseason forecast was 900). The 2009 return was the second lowest since at least 1980 (338 adults returned in 1985).

The Kalama’s 2004 and 2005 broodstock have performed poorly to date.

However, the Kalama three-year-old jack returns from the 2006 broodstock are expected to result in improved four year-old returns in 2010. Thus, the 2010 preseason forecast is 900 adult chinook.

In the Lewis River the 2009 actual adult return was 1,900 (preseason forecast 2,200), and ended up being the lowest of this decade.

In hindsight, the Lewis had the largest return of three-year-old jacks since the early 1990s.

With that the 2010 preseason forecast for the Lewis is 6,000 adult chinook, and the return would be 20-percent greater than the recent ten-year average.

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While the official forecast isn’t out yet for the Willamette River on the Oregon side of the Lower Columbia, outdoors reporter Allen Thomas from the Vancouver Columbian had a story that indicated the 2010 spring chinook return will be larger than in the past few years.

The story said: ”It’s on the mend,” according to biologist Chris Kern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There was a fairly good jack return and I think we’re looking at something similar to 2005 and 2006.”

The story went on to say that the run in those years was just shy of 60,000 spring chinook. Runs the past three years have been 39,900 in 2007, 27,000 in 2008 and about 40,000 this year.

Spring chinook forecasts have been off in recent years so Washington and Oregon fisheries officials are somewhat cautious on predicting these unpredictable spring chinook runs.

Here is a link to my story from Saturday (Dec. 12) on the huge Columbia River upriver spring chinook run.

(Photos taken by Mark Yuasa, Seattle Times staff reporter)

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