High Flows, Cool Temperatures Throw Northwest Salmon Forecast For A Loop

May 15, 2017

Oregon fishery managers have postponed a catch-and-release salmon and steelhead fishery on the Columbia River set to open this weekend, and say abnormal water conditions this spring have flung them, and their ability to predict what will happen next, into new territory.

As of Wednesday, only 26,000 of the approximately 160,000 forecasted upriver spring Chinook salmon had been counted at Bonneville Dam, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This low count, coupled with the number of fish that fishermen in a recreational fishery downstream of the dam have already caught, is delaying the opener of an annual recreational jack Chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead fishery. This fishery allows fishing from Tongue Point to upriver at the Interstate 5 bridge.

But fishery managers are also looking at extremely high flow levels on the Columbia River as well as cooler water temperatures — basically the opposite of what they were dealing with in 2015 when drought conditions in the Pacific Northwest worsened in the summer and affected fish all along the Columbia River, with water temperatures at Bonneville Dam rising to almost 5 degrees over the 10-year average.

Fishery managers believe the salmon are out there this spring; an early recreational fishery and test fishing yielded plenty of fish, according to Tucker Jones, the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ocean salmon and Columbia River program manager. It could be that the run is late, or it could be that the heavy flows are holding fish back, fishery managers say.

Read more at the Daily Astorian.