Record Numbers Of Chinook Salmon Are Running Up The Columbia River

Regional fisheries managers predict the annual Chinook run on the Columbia and Snake rivers to reach record numbers this season and have upped their forecasted count to 835,000 fish passing the Bonneville Dam--a number that could be the largest since record-keeping started in 1938 and would smash the record of 610,436 fish set in 2003.

This article from the Union Bulletin says Chinook counts downstream of the Bonneville Dam could easily surpass a million fish. Fish migrating into tributaries along the 146 miles between the Columbia's mouth and the dam (where managers make their official count) aren't included in the records. The largest surge of fish so far this fall occurred on Sept. 10, when 63,870 fish crossed Bonneville.

Reel Time Fishing guide Toby Wyatt said anglers are already boasting about this year's excellent fishing and giving guides, outfitters and local economies a boost.

"Word's out about this run," Wyatt said. "Every guide on the Columbia is booked and there's a lot of fishermen looking for open slots."

So far, of the Chinook that cleared the Bonneville Dam, a record 50,000 have also reached the Lower Granite Dam--the last dam on the Snake before the Idaho border--and are still coming at an average of 500 to 800 fish a day.

"For the anglers who've figured out how to catch them, the fishing has been as good as it gets, 10 or more a day," said Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston. "The overall catch rate is three hours per fish at Heller Bar. Fantastic. But anglers should know that only about 30 percent of these Chinook are hatchery fin-clipped fish, and they must release all unclipped Chinook (in the Snake system) to protect the (endangered) wild stocks."