Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian reports state, federal and tribal fishery biologists are predicting 298,900 spring chinook salmon will enter the Columbia River in 2009 destined for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam.
That would be the biggest return since 2002.
Forecasts for the Willamette River and other tributaries to the Columbia will not be available until next week.
Here are excepts from Thomas’ report:
“Spring chinook are more difficult than some salmonids to develop accurate, specific forecasts,’’ said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We know we had the second-best jack count on record in 2008 and believe this run will be a large one.’’
Spring chinook are the glory fish of the Columbia. They are exceptional table fare and return to the river in March and April, just as the days are lengthening, warming and sportsmen need a fix after six months of cabin fever.
LeFleur said the prediction was made by comparing the return of jacks (age 3) to age 4 chinook for the 1990 through 2004 brood years and the relationship of age 4 to age 5 spring chinook for the 1990 to 2003 brood years.
Spring chinook management is extremely complicated, as fisheries are structured to harvest from healthy hatchery-origin runs, while protecting wild salmon listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Details of the 2009 fishing seasons in the Columbia and its tributaries will be set when state officials meetJan. 29 in Oregon City.
Due to a weak run anticipated back to Oregon’s Willamette River, spring chinook fishing downstream of the mouth of the Willamette is considered unlikely in 2009.
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