A couple of fish counts have been causing quite a few biologists scratch their heads at the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River, one of the 4 major dams that have been the center of an ongoing dam removal campaign.
This year, the count of returning Coho salmon was up 300% compared to last year’s numbers with a total of 24,000 fish counted at the dam. While 24k salmon may seem like a low number, it helps to consider that between 1980 and 1996, only 89 TOTAL salmon were counted at the Lower Granite Dam. One theory for the increase is the Nez Perce Tribe’s Coho stocking program in Lostine River and Clearwater Basin, where the Tribe introduced nearly 500,000 smolts in 2017. However, the overall increase in Cohos along the entire Pacific coastline has baffled biologists.
“Coho are bonkers all the way up the West Coast, and I don’t really know why to be honest,” said Kyle Bratcher, a fish biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There’s something going out in the ocean that’s changed that’s allowed them to do well.”
While it is incredible to see Cohos doing so well, another fish count is cause for concern. As of November 30th, only 39,359 returning steelhead have made it to the Lower Granite, a whopping 20,000 fish lower than the US Army Corp of Engineer’s 10-year average.
To learn more about the record-setting fish counts, check out this article from the East Oregonian.