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It has been a record-breaking summer for many salmon returns on the Columbia River, and the actual returns continue to wax the preseason expectations.

The latest news shows the updated Columbia River chinook run is now expected to be 1,165,000, and would be the second largest return in 77 years.

“We have chinook coming out of our ears, and it is still rumbling along at a good pace,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

This has created some very good king fishing in the Lower, mid and upper Columbia mainstem, plus many tributaries are also benefitting from the large returns.

“There are a bunch of chinook around, and some really good fishing from the mouth of Lewis all the way up to Bonneville Dam,” Hymer said. “It was also good at mouth of the Klickitat, inside Drano Lake and on the Cowlitz. There hasn’t been a lot of effort on the mainstem, but fishing has been good.”

According to the latest joint state and tribal fact sheet by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that came out on Wednesday, Sept. 23 it revealed some delightful news.

Through Tuesday, Sept. 22, 755,455 adult fall chinook have passed Bonneville Dam. This includes 643,054 upriver bright and 112,401 tule chinook.

The upriver bright chinook run is higher than the preseason forecasts, and would also be the second largest since 2013 when 784,000 returned. However, the Spring Creek tule chinook run is below the preseason forecast.

The TAC updated the upriver chinook runs to 734,900 upriver bright (URB) chinook, 148,900 mid-Columbia bright (MCB) and 139,500 Bonneville Pool Hatchery (BPH) tule chinook (518,300, 113,330 and 163,900 preseason, respectively).

(Photo by Tony Floo)
(Photo by Tony Floo)

TAC will meet each Monday, and continue to update the fall chinook run sizes. At the forecast run size the tribal fishery has a 30 percent harvest rate on URB fall chinook.

At the current forecast run sizes, the URB run, the combined upriver run and the total fall chinook run will each be the second largest on record since Bonneville Dam construction.

The cumulative total adult fall chinook return to Lower Granite Dam is also the largest since the construction of Lower Granite Dam.

The Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery has reported that they have met their broodstock goal of 7,000 fish (4,000 females) and that they have begun to surplus extra fish.

The one downside is the early run of Columbia coho that could be the smallest early return over Bonneville Dam since 1997.

“It wasn’t very good the early coho, but we are seeing an uptick in the Buoy 10 catches (at Lower Columbia mouth) for the late coho run,” Hymer said. “Hopefully it looks better for the late-stock coho.”

Through Tuesday, Sept. 22, 23,235 adult coho have passed Bonneville Dam – preseason forecast was 140,000.

The steelhead “A and B Run” are also not living up to expectations.

The A and B index steelhead counts since July 1 total 230,630. Steelhead are tracking behind expectations. On Monday, Sept. 21, TAC updated the total A/B Index steelhead run to 250,000 at Bonneville, and the B Index steelhead to 20,000 fish (5,200 wild). If the B steelhead run is 20,000 or above, the harvest rate is 15 percent and below 20,000, the harvest rate drops to 13 percent.