More Columbia River salmon forecasts have come to light and if the numbers pan out, anglers could see improved ocean and in-river fisheries this coming summer.
“It should be as good in 2014 as it was this past year, which saw a bumper crop of fall chinook,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “Coho and sockeye numbers are also up in 2014, summer chinook is on par, and spring chinook is double of what we saw last season.”
All Columbia River chinook stocks appeared to have exceeded expectations with the exception of the Bonneville bright chinook stock that came in as predicted.
The Columbia upriver bright chinook stock mainly headed to the Hanford Reach area, and those destined for the Snake and Deschutes rivers should be strong in 2014.
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Fishery managers say the 2014 upriver bright return will be similar to the 2013 forecast of 555,400, and this past summer’s run ended up being nearly twice as large.
The 2013 fall adult chinook run in the Columbia River was predicted to be 677,900, and the actual return exceeded 1.2 million.
The Columbia River coho return in 2013 was less than the 433,600 forecast, but should be much better in 2014.
The Columbia River sockeye forecast in 2014 is 345,900 and 1,200 are destined for the Snake River, which is way up from 185,500 (180,500 was the forecast) that were counted at Bonneville Dam this past summer.
The record was 521,000 sockeye in 2012, which was the largest since 1938, and waxed the previous record of 387,900 in 2010.
The 2014 Upper Columbia summer chinook forecast is 67,500, and about 60 percent will likely be hatchery-marked fish. That compares to a forecast of 73,500 last year, and an actual return of 67,600 and a 17,200 jack chinook return, the third highest in recent history. The record Upper Columbia River summer chinook return was 89,500 in 2002.
Most of the summer chinook migrate up the Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam from mid-June through July. They are commonly referred to by anglers as “June Hogs,” for their enormous size with a few exceeding 40-plus pounds.
All salmon stocks in recent years are still benefiting from La Nina’s colder water upwelling conditions that produce fantastic ocean survival rates, not only for fin fish species but the entire food chain.
“It is too early to tell, but my hopes are up for next season,” said Doug Milward, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon resource manager. “Judging by some early predictors, I think it’ll be a good year for coho and chinook in the ocean.”
Earlier this month, the upriver spring chinook forecast came to light with a forecast of 227,000. That would be the fifth-largest return since 1980 and almost 100,000 more fish than last year.
Last year’s forecast of 141,400 wasn’t that much off the actual return of 123,100, but in 2012 a forecast of 314,200 fell way short at 203,090.
The largest spring chinook return on record was 440,336 (364,600 was forecast) in 2001, and the worst was 12,792 (12,000) in 1995.
Spring chinook forecasts for tributaries of the Lower Columbia River also recently came to light, and the Cowlitz is expecting 7,800 compared to an actual return last season of 9,500 (5,500 was forecast).
The Kalama is expecting 500 compared to 1,300 (700 was the forecast), and the Lewis prediction is 1,100 compared to 1,800 (1,600 was the forecast).
The forecast for tributaries above Bonneville Dam, such as Wind River, White Salmon River and Drano Lake, usually come out in January.
The Columbia River shad forecast is expected to be strong in 2014, and last season four million returned with a 10-year average of 2.9-million.
Spring chinook fishing seasons will be decided Jan. 29.
More summer and fall salmon forecasts including the Puget Sound/Strait of Juan de Fuca region will come to light March 3 when state Fish and Wildlife unveils their outlook in Olympia. Final seasons will be decided in April 5-10.
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