Salmon and Steelhead Returns to the Columbia River Basin and the Forecast for 2022

Despite an overall bump in numbers, a decline is forecast for 2022

At their March meeting, Council members were briefed by Tim Sippel, of the U.S. v. Oregon technical advisory committee, a coalition of state and tribal fish managers that forecasts annual fish returns in managing salmon (Chinook, coho and sockeye) and steelhead fisheries in much of the Columbia River Basin.

The presentation included a retrospective of the 2021 adult salmon and steelhead returns, along with a forecast of returns for 2022.


In addition, John Powell, Endangered Species Act program coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife provided the Snake River basin information that focused on spring, summer, and fall Chinook salmon; summer steelhead; and sockeye salmon. Fish passing Lower Granite Dam make up adult salmon and steelhead destined for eastern Oregon’s Grande Ronde and Imnaha river drainages and Idaho’s Clearwater and Salmon River drainages.


The overarching message: While we did see an increase from the last two years, the forecast is for a general decline in salmonids in 2022.

“It was a mixed bag,” noted Sippel, “but the returns were largely above the lower returns seen several years ago.”

Other points of interest:

  • Most stock returns tracked closely to the 2021 forecast
  • Bonneville Pool Hatchery Chinook returned 57 percent above the forecast
  • Columbia River coho and upriver bright (upriver fall Chinook) returns came in well below the forecast, however the coho returns were more than two times above the recent 10-year average

This information, which provides a tangible measure of the state of salmon in the basin and a preview of what to expect in the current year, is relevant to the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program and its performance indicators.