Steelhead forecast grows more grim

State, tribal and federal fisheries managers have once again downgraded their forecast for the return of steelhead to the Snake and Columbia rivers.

A group of state, tribal and federal salmon managers has downgraded the expected return of steelhead to the Columbia and Snake rivers for a second week in a row.

The Technical Advisory Committee now says only about 74,000 steelhead will pass Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River this summer and fall, including 36,000 wild fish. Before the season began, the same group estimated the steelhead return at Bonneville Dam would number about 118,200. Last week, the salmon managers downgraded the prediction to 84,000.

The prediction includes returns of both A-run and B-run steelhead. However, the downgrade is based almost entirely on the performance of the A-run fish that typically spend just one year in the ocean. B-run steelhead typically spend two years in the ocean and don’t return until September and October. Salmon managers said it’s too early to determine if B-run steelhead will meet the meager preseason forecast of about 8,000 passing Bonneville Dam and 5,300 making it past Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River.

Through Tuesday, nearly 70,000 fall chinook had passed Bonneville Dam. That total is on pace to meet the preseason forecast of 228,600.

Fisheries managers in Oregon and Washington closed chinook fishing below Bonneville Dam starting today. Anglers fishing in the lower Columbia River have exceeded state harvest quotas by about 40 percent, according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Clearly, we need to close the season as soon as possible,” said Tucker Jones, Oregon’s manager of ocean salmon and Columbia River fisheries. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and if there is any indication that we have room to catch more fish, we’ll take action.”

Barker may be contacted at ebarker@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.

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