Another Good Year for Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Runs

Washington, Oregon, and Idaho fish managers are optimistic about salmon and steelhead returns to the Columbia River Basin in 2012, with some runs predicted to return in numbers not seen in decades – particularly sockeye. State fish and wildlife agency representatives briefed the Northwest Power and Conservation Council this month on the 2011 runs and predictions for 2012. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Upriver spring Chinook: The 2012 forecast is 314,200 fish entering the Columbia -- 168,000 Snake River fish (39,100 wild) and 32,600 upper Columbia spring Chinook (2,800 wild), with the remainder of the run returning to mid-Columbia tributaries. That’s nearly 100,000 more than the 2011 run of 221,200.

  • Summer Chinook: The 2012 forecast is for 91,200 fish, which would be the highest return since at least 1980, and 135 percent of the 10-year average (67,500 adult fish). The 2011 run totaled 80,574.

  • Sockeye: The 2012 sockeye forecast is a whopping 462,000 fish, which includes 28,800 to the Wenatchee River, 431,300 to the Okanogan River, and 1,900 to the Snake River – in all, 348 percent of the recent 10-year average. The 2011 return was 187,300 fish. The 1,900-fish forecast for the Snake River would beat last year’s 1,500, which was the second-highest observed since at least 1980, trailing only the record return of 2010. That’s an impressive improvement from the 1990s, when the run dwindled to single-digit returns.

  • Upriver summer steelhead: The 2012 forecast is 380,300 fish, which is 95 percent of the 10-year average and very similar to the 2011 return.

  • Upriver fall Chinook: The estimate for 2012 is 483,500, which would be more than in 2011. The upriver-bright component, fish that spawn in the Hanford Reach primarily, is expected to be 353,300 fish, which is nearly 100,000 more than the 2000-2011 average of 257,000.

  • Snake River wild fall Chinook: The run was estimated at 14,900 in 2011, and about the same number are expected this year – approximately double the 2000-2011 average of 8,100 fish.