With Higher Than Expected Upper Columbia Sockeye Return and Decent Summer Chinook Run, Fishery Managers Add More Fishing Days

Date:
July 1, 2022
With Higher Than Expected Upper Columbia Sockeye Return and Decent Summer Chinook Run, Fishery Managers Add More Fishing Days

Columbia River fishery managers from Oregon and Washington added 13 days of summer Chinook fishing below Bonneville Dam starting today, July 1 through Wednesday, July 13. The move comes as the sockeye return is now predicted to be more than double the preseason forecast. So starting July 1, Columbia River anglers may retain sockeye as part of their adult salmon bag limit, fishery managers decided during a joint meeting today. Sockeye retention will be allowed during July 1-31 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge in Pasco, Washington. Through June 26, a total of 239,575 sockeye have been counted at Bonneville Dam which is the 4th highest cumulative count to date in the last ten years and 60% higher than the recent 10-year average. Based on 10-year average passage timing the run is 51% complete on June 26.

The combined sockeye return to the Columbia River includes fish destined for the Snake River, which are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Take is limited to one percent of the combined sockeye return for non-treaty fisheries. Fishery managers at the Columbia River Compact, which sets harvest days and regulations, debated whether to close recreational fishing Sunday to reassess return numbers and catch rates. But with a decent number of chinook salmon and sockeye in the river, it was decided to instead keep fishing going below Bonneville Dam until July 13, but monitor the fishery closely. Fishery managers at the Compact said if the numbers show too many fish being caught, they will issue an emergency closure.

Summer Chinook

Upper Columbia summer Chinook pass Bonneville Dam during June 16 through July 31 destined for mainstem and tributary areas upstream of Priest Rapids Dam. The fish are not listed under the ESA and the population is considered healthy. The 2022 preseason forecast of 56,300 adults to the Columbia River mouth is similar to the 2021 actual return (56,800), but less than the recent 10-year average return of 68,900 adults.Bonneville Dam passage during June 16–26 totals 27,716 adult Chinook which is 119% of expected based on the preseason forecast and 5-year average run timing. The run is typically 50% complete by June 28 (5-year average).The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee met on Monday, June 27 and updated the summer Chinook return expectation to 66,800 Chinook at the Columbia River mouth. TAC’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, July 5.

Summer Steelhead

Steelhead passing Bonneville Dam between April 1 and June 30 (including Bonneville Pool harvest during this timeframe) are considered upriver Skamania-stock steelhead. Steelhead caught in the lower Columbia from May 1 to June 30 are counted as lower river Skamania stock steelhead. The preseason forecast is for a return of 3,100 total upriver Skamania summer steelhead, including 1,600 wild fish. Through June 26 a total of 5,926 upriver Skamania steelhead have passed Bonneville Dam, which is 107% of the 10-year average cumulative count to this date. The upriver Skamania run is typically about 79% complete by June 26. Passage of unclipped upriver Skamania steelhead totals 2,032 fish as of June 26, which is 99% the 10-year average through this date.

Steelhead passing Bonneville Dam from July 1 through October 31 are considered part of this year’s A- and B-Index steelhead run. The preseason forecast is for a return of 81,000 A-Index (28,100 wild) and 15,600 of the larger B-Index steelhead (1,900 wild). The expected aggregate return of 96,600 fish is 59% of the recent 10-year average.The non-treaty ESA impact limit on wild A-/B-Index summer steelhead is 2% each in fisheries occurring from January through July. Due to the low projected returns for upriver summer steelhead, additional protective regulations have again been implemented in 2022 fisheries. For summer-season fisheries in the mainstem between the Astoria/Megler Bridge and the Highway 395 Bridge (near Pasco, WA), the daily bag limit may not include more than one hatchery steelhead.

Sockeye

The preseason forecast was for a return of 198,700 sockeye to the Columbia River mouth. Through June 26, a total of 239,575 sockeye have been counted at Bonneville Dam which is the fourth highest cumulative count to date in the last ten years and 60% higher than the recent 10-year average. Based on 10-year average passage timing the run is 51% complete on June 26.The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee met on Monday, June 27 and reviewed sockeye passage to date. TAC updated the sockeye return expectation to 426,000 fish at the Columbia River mouth. The management goal for upper Columbia River sockeye is 65,000 fish at Priest Rapids Dam, which under average migration conditions requires passage of 75,000 fish over Bonneville Dam.

As in recent years, the Oregon and Washington policies for 2022 specific to allocation sharing of sockeye differ, or “not concurrent.” This results in the non-treaty ESA impacts allocated as follows: 70% to recreational fisheries, 20% to commercial fisheries, with 10% unallocated. The impact limit on the Columbia River return of ESA-listed sockeye is 1% for non-treaty fisheries and 7% for treaty Indian fisheries. Lake Wenatchee sockeye are expected to meet the escapement goal (23,000) given the aggregate sockeye run-size update provided by TAC. Sockeye fishing also opened July 1 on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers in Washington’s Okanogan County. “The higher-than-expected return is welcome news, both for the health of the sockeye population and for anglers throughout the Columbia,” said Quinten Daugherty, Columbia River fish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’ll continue monitoring the return closely to make sure we’re meeting our conservation goals, but we’re optimistic that there will be significantly more opportunity to fish for sockeye in much of the river this summer.”As of June 29, the five-day average outflow at Bonneville Dam is 396 kcfs compared to the five-year average of 248 kcfs.

The current five-day average water temperature at Bonneville Dam forebay is 60.5°F compared to the five-year average of 64.4°F.The five-day average visibility at Bonneville Dam is 4.0 feetNote that as sockeye salmon are almost all natural origin (not hatchery) fish, they can only be tagged on a Combined Angling tag (not a hatchery harvest card). Regulations for the additional fishing days are as follows for the areas above and below Bonneville Dam:

Below Bonneville Dam:

  • Area: Astoria- Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam
  • Season: July 1-13
  • Bag limit: Two adult salmonids (hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, and sockeye) of which no more than one may be a steelhead. All sockeye are considered adults.

The daily bag limit for jack salmon is five fish. All previously adopted regulations remain in effect.

  • Area: Astoria- Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam
  • Season: July 14-31
  • Bag limit: Two adult salmonids (sockeye and hatchery steelhead) of which no more than one may be a steelhead. All sockeye are considered adults.  The daily bag limit for jack salmon is five fish. All previously adopted regulations remain in effect.Above Bonneville Dam:
  • Area: Bonneville Dam to Hwy 395 at Pasco, WA
  • Season: July 1-31
  • Bag limit: Two adult salmonids (hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, and sockeye) of which no more than one may be a steelhead. All sockeye are considered adults.  The daily bag limit for jack salmon is five fish. All previously adopted regulations remain in effect.
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