Fishing the last few weeks has been tough, if not impossible. The Tillamook River is iced over and others are getting a bit hard as well. Earlier rains washed out rivers makeing them undriftable. When the rains subsided, the winds picked up. Then after the winds, the waters were glass clear - too clear for Chinook. Then the subfreezing temps arrived. Ouch!
The most interesting bit of news came Friday. State, Federal and Tribal committees from Oregon and Washington announced their predictions for the 2010 Spring Chinook returns. I'm still skeptical, but they're expecting about 470,000 adult Springers to run the Columbia in a few months. This newest prediction is the largest return of Springers since 1938 - when the Bonneville Dam was built and fish counting began. In 2009, they forecasted 350,000, but we only saw half that. In 2001, we did get over 400,000 fish, so it’s possible that this next year could be good.
Even still, if we get half of the current prediction, we're looking at some good fishing! Its hard to speculate what Spring Chinook regulations will be (announced Feb. 18, 2010) but I’d expect an angler take of about 20,000 adults. Last year we brought in almost 17,000. Fishing for Springers on the Columbia, and we will likely be limited to just 3-days out of the week just like last year.
Scientists base predictions based on the number of young "Jack" salmon that return with the adults. In 2009, we had a HUGE number of these teenaged Jack salmon in the rivers, instead of the ocean. The 80,000+ jacks counted this year were four times more than were counted in 2000, which lead to the huge numbers in 2001. Because of over grossly over-estimated predictions since 2001, scientists have altered their formulas. The most popular results this marked a return range between 330,000 and 580,000, so committees and scientists settled on a number right in between.
Now, these are the numbers for the Columbia River at Bonneville Dam. Coming this week we’ll have numbers for the Willamette River through Portland. This figure rarely follow the Columbia numbers, but they are very often much more accurate. Biologists in Oregon are thinking 60,000 fish for the Willamette are likely, which would be enough to keep the river open to Chinook fishing 7-days a week, with a two fish limit! Yum!