Fish Managers Expect Another Good Salmon and Steelhead Return in 2015

Columbia River salmon runs should top 2 million fish again in 2015, continuing a trend of record or near-record runs over last decade compared to runs in the 1990s, fish managers reported to the Council this month.

“The 2015 run and the runs of recent years really show a big bounceback since the 1990s,” Bill Tweit of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Council at its March meeting. “We still are in a period of higher than average salmon productivity in the Columbia River. We know it can’t last forever, but it’s more fun than managing scarcity.”

Run by run, here is an overview:

  • Upriver Spring Chinook (includes Snake River stocks): 2014 was a good year (242,577 fish). Another strong run is expected in 2015 (232,500 fish).
  • Upper Columbia summer Chinook: The run continues to be strong (78,304 in 2014, 73,000 predicted in 2015), and it will be boosted in future years by increased production at the Colville Tribes’ Chief Joseph Hatchery.
  • Upper Columbia sockeye: Record-breaking runs (645,140 in 2014; 394,000 predicted in 2015) have become almost commonplace for this species. The largest component of the run spawns in British Columbia. The Wenatchee River portion of the run (118,480) met its production goal in 2014 --enough for a fishery.
  • Mid-Columbia fall Chinook: “Another very, very large run” is expected in 2015, Tweit said. The 2014 run totaled 981,100 fish; the 2015 prediction is 1,319,500).
  • Coho upstream of Bonneville Dam: “This run is beginning to show a lot of strength,” despite high variation from year to year, which is typical of coho. The upriver run in 2014 (255,118 fish) was larger than anticipated.
  • Snake River fall Chinook: Another strong run is forecast for 2015 (10,250 fish), said Paul Klein, assistant chief of fisheries for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He said there were “a tremendous number of redds counted last year.”
  • Snake River sockeye: Klein said 2,786 fish, a record number for the endangered species, were counted at Lower Granite Dam in 2014, and the forecast for 2015 is 1,800.
  • Snake River steelhead: The 2014 run was good, and the 2015 run should be good, too -- “not as high as we enjoyed over the last decade, but not horrible, either,” he said.
  • Snake River spring/summer Chinook: “It’s not a bad year coming up, compared to the last 15 years,” Klein said.
  • Snake River coho: Klein said another strong year is anticipated thanks, he said, to the ongoing work of the Nez Perce Tribe to rebuild the run. The 2014 run (18,651 fish) was “off the scale,” he said, demonstrating again how variable coho run sizes can be from the same number of hatchery smolts released every year.