Strong Sockeye salmon returns to the Columbia River are baffling the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. According to the WDFW, “the committee that forecasts and monitors salmon and steelhead returns to the Columbia River initially predicted around 198,000 sockeye salmon ahead of the season.” However, by June 29th, nearly 350,000 individuals had already been counted at the Bonneville Dam, making this year’s run the highest in the past 10 years.
OLYMPIA – With sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia River in numbers well above the preseason forecast, fishery managers announced Thursday that sockeye fishing will open from the Astoria-Megler Bridge on the lower river to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, and daily limits increase from there to Chief Joseph Dam near Bridgeport on the upper river.
The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which forecasts and monitors salmon and steelhead returns to the Columbia River, earlier this week upgraded the 2022 forecast for sockeye returning to the river to 426,000, more than double the preseason forecast of 198,000 fish. By June 29, the preliminary total sockeye count at Bonneville Dam is 343,953 fish, the highest count to date in the last 10 years.
As a result, fishery managers determined that sockeye retention could open starting July 1 on many portions of the lower river, and limits could increase in other sections previously scheduled for sockeye retention. Sockeye fishing is also scheduled to open July 1 on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers in Okanogan County.
“The higher-than-expected return is welcome news, both for the health of the sockeye population and for anglers throughout the Columbia,” said Quinten Daugherty, Columbia River fish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We’ll continue monitoring the return closely to make sure we’re meeting our conservation goals, but we’re optimistic that there will be significantly more opportunity to fish for sockeye in much of the river this summer.”
Following a one-week opening in mid-June, further allocation is available given the recently updated summer Chinook return expectation of 66,800 to the Columbia River mouth. Anglers will also have an additional 13 days to fish for summer Chinook below Bonneville Dam.
To learn more, check out this press release from WDFW!