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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

December 22, 2009 at 10:01 AM

More good news for Columbia River spring chinook returns above Bonneville Dam

We just can’t stop saying enough about what to expect in the Columbia River this coming year for spring chinook.

State Fish and Wildlife now reported today (Dec. 18) that the three main tributaries above Bonneville Dam will also see a much improved adult spring chinook return in 2010.

This comes on the heels of last week’s announcement of a huge predicted return of 470,000 upriver spring chinook (169,300 last year) back to the Columbia, and news earlier this week about a big jump of returning fish in the tributaries below Bonneville Dam.

“The Wind River and Drano Lake experienced good jack chinook returns this past spring so they will see substantially improved adult spring chinook returns [in 2010],” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Jacks are immature, precocious males that return after just one or two years in the ocean.

The Drano Lake forecast is 30,200 compared to an actual return of 10,900 last year (9,600 was the forecast last year); the Wind River forecast is 14,500 compared to 4,500 (6,900); and Klickitat River forecast is 4,500 compared to 1,500 (2,000).

“The Drano return would be the largest since 1979 and would be a record return,” Hymer said. “The Wind is the biggest since 2003 [the record return was 25,900 in 2001], and the Klickitat return would be the third largest since at least 1979.”

“Fishing in the Wind River and Drano Lake was pretty good [last spring], and there was a lot of jacks in the catches especially at Drano,” Hymer said. “The fish were late getting over the dam, and once they hit the dam it was on time, and a lot of jacks were good biters.”

The 2010 preseason forecast for the Lower Columbia River tributaries of the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis is 19,400 adult spring chinook [compared to 7,200 predicted last spring].

The 2010 Willamette River spring chinook return is predicted to be 62,700 (37,627 actually returned last spring), and 75 percent of those would be of hatchery origin.

The three-year-old jack returns were improved and in some cases the highest in years.

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.

Fisheries managers will meet Feb. 18 to discuss spring chinook seasons.

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