OK salmon anglers, listen up. Officials of the Department of Fish and Wildlife have some good news and some bad news for us.
First, some bad news. The run of spring chinook bound for the Columbia River and tributaries above Bonneville Dam is predicted to be smaller this year. A whole lot smaller.
Prognosticators have done some cyphering, moved a few wooden balls on their abacus and looked into their magic ball and have determined there will be only about 141,000 chinook headed our way in the next couple months.
That’s woefully short of last year’s actual return of 203,100 salmon, a number that was also woefully short of the 314,200 forecast.
The good news is there will still be fishing seasons at the popular fishing holes such as the Wind River, Drano Lake, Klickitat River and probably even the Yakima River.
The bad news is, at the Wind, where estimators say only about 3,600 fish are expected to return, the daily limit will only be one fish per angler, and the newly instituted two-rod rule has been discontinued.
The good news is the sport fishing boundaries at the Wind, which were increased significantly last year, will remain in place, giving anglers the much-appreciated elbow room they enjoyed last season.
The bad news is the one-fish limit and the one-rod rule will push that many more anglers upriver to Drano Lake, which at times is already a tad bit crowded.
The good news is officials are predicting some 4,500 spring salmon for Drano, so a two-fish-per-day limit and two-rod endorsement remains in effect.
The bad news is that even though Drano opened for spring salmon fishing on Saturday, there were only about three dozen springers over the dam, making the actual chance of catching a fish only slightly better than winning this week’s Power Ball drawing.
The good news is at least some salmon are headed upstream right now. In the past couple years the run has been delayed by roughly two weeks. Those of us who just can’t stand the thought of a salmon season being open and not going fishing have at least a tiny bit of hope of catching a salmon early in the season.
The bad news is even with some salmon climbing the ladders at Bonneville, the Wind River will not open until April 1.
There is, however, other good news on the salmon fishing front. Some 73,500 summer chinook are expected back to the upper Columbia this year, compared to a run of 58,300 last year.
The bad news is, last year the prognosticators predicted we would get a run of 91,000 summer chinook back, so they missed their mark by almost half. If that happens again this year, we could be well below last year’s actual number.
The good news on the sockeye count is officials are expecting some 350,000 sockeye salmon to return to the upper Columbia. Local anglers are learning how to catch these great-eating fish, so it is looking good for another season of fishing for sockeye at several favorite holes on the big river.
The bad news is the number of estimated sockeye coming back in June and July is off by about 200,000 from last year’s incredible run of 550,000.
There is good news for fall salmon anglers if the estimates on returning fish hold up. This year biologists are saying we could get 432,500 upriver bright chinook returning to their spawning grounds of the Columbia near Vernita. If that number pans out it would be the biggest run of fall chinook since those numbers were recorded. The current largest run of fall chinook was in 1987 when 420,700 fish returned.
The bad news is that the salmon return predictors are almost never right, so we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Finally, there is good news about Columbia River coho salmon. The forecast is for just over 500,000 coho returning to the Columbia late this summer. That is much better than last year’s forecast of 317,200 coho.
The bad news is only 170,300 coho actually returned to the Columbia and tributaries last fall. Once again, predictions can be WAY off.
The good news is this year’s forecast for coho is better than the five-year average (404,700) and should mean popular fishing spots, like the mouth of the Klickitat River, should be better later this year.
The bad news is even with the estimated bump in coho numbers, the Buoy 10 fishery at the mouth of the Columbia still may not be great. Biologists say it takes at least 700,000 returning coho to provide excellent fishing there during the extremely popular season in August and September.
The good news is, even with all of the predicted ups and downs in the salmon runs on the Columbia this year, there will be all kinds of opportunities to catch some of these beautiful, tasty fish.
The bad news is the first of the spring salmon runs can’t get here soon enough.