VANTAGE, Wash. — Anglers have good reason to be booking trips with fishing guides or getting their own gear rigged and vacations scheduled for fishing the Columbia River from now into October.
The second-largest sockeye run on record is sprinting through the Columbia.
Washington fish managers have forecast of a run 425,000 sockeye into the Columbia, a number second only to the 521,000 counted in 2012.
Already this year, more than 340,000 sockeye have entered the Columbia past Bonneville Dam, doubling last year’s entire run of 186,100.
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The next-largest run of sockeye since counting began at dams was 388,000 in 2010.
Anglers looking to put in more hours for a fish with up to 10 times the fight, not to mention that much more meat, also are riding high this season with a forecast for a solid run of 67,500 summer chinook.
Last year the forecast was for 53,500 adult chinook but the actual returns were higher — 67,600.
The fish already are running through the Columbia upstream to the Brewster area. Fish in the lower Columbia were mainly 15-22 pounds with some around 30 pounds, said Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon specialist in Vancouver.
So far in the fishery, creel checks have indicated anglers are catching 60 percent unmarked fish and 40 percent hatchery fin-clipped fish.
“We’d predicted the opposite, that the catch would be 60 percent marked fish,” Hymer said.
An adult chinook is eligible to be caught and kept in the upper Columbia only if its adipose fin has been clipped before release from the hatchery.
“This year’s summer chinook indicates the benefits of habitat improvements upstream and supplementation that has been increasing in recent years,” said Hymer. “From the 1980s through 2000, the total returns ranged from 9,000 to 23,000 fish.
“The biggest run of summer chinook, since 1980 at least, was about 89,500 in 2002 followed by 80,000 in 2011.”
The crack found in Wanapum Dam this winter, forcing a severe drawdown of the reservoir upstream past Vantage, has not impeded migration of fish up or downstream, state officials say.
“Fish passage around Wanapum Dam is doing fine,” said Chad Jackson, WDFW fisheries biologist in Ephrata.
The summer chinook and sockeye runs are just part of the story. A record-shattering run of fall chinook also is forecast for the Columbia.
Get more information at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing