December 24, 2009 – Bend Bulletin Promising Spring Chinook Season May Hit Deschutes

Promising spring chinook season may hit Deschutes  – A massive Columbia run has anglers taking notice

By Mark Morical / The Bulletin
Published: December 24. 2009 4:00AM PST

Anglers are eagerly awaiting what is projected to be the largest run of spring chinook salmon to enter the Columbia River since the construction of Bonneville Dam in the 1930s.

Biologists predict that some 470,000 spring chinook, arguably the finest-eating salmon in the world, will make their way from the Pacific Ocean into the Columbia.

The fish begin entering the river in serious numbers in March.

So what does this mean for a spring chinook season on Columbia tributaries — in particular, the Deschutes River?

Rod French, a fisheries biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in The Dalles, says an announcement on the setting of a spring chinook season on the Deschutes in 2010 will be made sometime in mid-January.

“I don’t have a preseason forecast for the Deschutes yet,” French said Wednesday. “There will be a large amount of interest in the Deschutes, because of the (Columbia) numbers, and because we didn’t have a fishery last year.”

French and other biologists will study fish escapement data from last year and enter that data into a model to help determine a run prediction for the Deschutes.

Most of the spring chinook that enter the Deschutes from the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia return to the Warm Springs River to spawn.

“We had a lot of jacks (juvenile chinook) return last year, which bodes real well (for a 2010 season),” French said.

Spring chinook seasons in the Deschutes typically run from the beginning of April to the end of July.

In the mid-Columbia area, Deschutes spring chinook is one of the most popular fisheries, according to French. One reason for that is the extremely high catch rates in the Sherars Falls area, just north of Maupin.

“It’s one of the best places in the state to catch a spring chinook from the bank,” French said of Sherars Falls.

While the forecast is for an extraordinary chinook run in the Columbia, fishermen and officials will be watching Bonneville Dam counts to see if the monster return materializes.

In 2008, the Technical Advisory Committee of state, federal and tribal biologists forecast 269,300 spring chinook, yet only 178,600 returned. This year, the forecast was for 298,900 and the actual run was 170,000.

“Last year, our (Deschutes) estimate was right on,” French said, “and the Columbia estimate was off considerably.”

Mark Morical can be reached at 541-383-0318 or at
The Vancouver
Columbian contributed to this report.


Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2009