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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

December 13, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Spring chinook return forecast looks decent in Oregon’s Willamette River

The Willamette River spring chinook return looks good in 2012.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife announced today a forecast of 83,400 back to the river that runs right through the heart of downtown Portland, and generates many anglers to come out of the woodwork from the winter doldrums.

Last year, 104,000 were predicted to return to the Willamette, and the actual return was 80,254.

If the Willamette forecast pans out then it would rank second behind 2010 return of 110,000 springers.

This comes on the heels of a very strong upriver Columbia River spring chinook return forecast of 314,200 announced yesterday, compared to a forecast last year of 198,400 and an actual return of 221,200.

If the upriver spring chinook forecast comes in as predicted it would be the fourth largest return dating back to 1938. The largest occurred in 2001 with a return of about 440,000.

The second largest occurred in 2002 when 335,000 upriver springers returned, and the third largest was 315,000 in 2010.

The Upper Columbia spring chinook forecast in 2012 is 32,600 compared to a 22,400 forecast last year and an actual return of 16,500. For Upper Columbia wild spring chinook the forecast in 2012 is 2,800 compared to 2,000 and 2,200.

The Snake River spring/summer forecast in 2012 is 168,000 compared to 91,700 last year (127,500 was actual return). The Snake River wild spring chinook is 39,000 in 2012 compared to 24,700 last year (31,600).

The 2012 adult spring chinook returns for the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers look slightly better than last year with a total forecast of 12,100 compared to 10,600 forecast in 2011 and an actual return of 6,300.

The Cowlitz forecast is 8,700 (6,600 was 2011 forecast, and actual return was 4,100); Kalama, 700 (600 and 800); and Lewis, 2,700 (3,400 and 1,400).

The spawning goals in the Cowlitz and Lewis are 1,250 each; and the Kalama is 500. Spring chinook fishing restrictions are likely in the Kalama and Lewis.

The Cowlitz had a strong jack spring chinook return in 2011, and the Cowlitz forecast in 2012 is above the recent five-year average. Kalama returns have been down for the past three years, and the forecasts for the Lewis is slightly below the five-year average.

The forecasts for spring chinook in tributaries above Bonneville Dam like the Wind River, White Salmon River and Drano Lake usually come out in late January.

Fishing seasons will be decided at a Jan. 26 meeting of the Technical Advisory Compact made up of state, federal and tribal fishery managers in Oregon City, Oregon.

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