Oregon anglers this fall may have more on their hands than they can handle. State and tribal wildlife authorities have predicted that more than 1.6 million Chinook will be surging into the Columbia River later this year, in addition to nearly 1 million coho. If the estimates are correct, it will be the largest Chinook salmon run since record-keeping started in 1938.
“It’s definitely looking to be great,” Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Columbia River Administrator Chris Kern told the Statesman Journal. “And especially when you put the coho and the fall Chinook together […] that’s a big fall return.”
The large 2014 estimate by wildlife officials comes on the heels of last year’s huge autumn run, which brought in 1.2 million Chinook. Biologists are still not entirely sure what is behind the large numbers of fish destined for the Columbia, but they say it is likely a combination of good conditions. Last year’s salmon run was the largest in decades and nearly double what biologists expected. Much to fishermen’s delight, the season and bag limits were consequently extended. Officials now speculate these record numbers may be the result of good ocean conditions, a mandated “spill regime” that made it easier for juvenile fish to reach the ocean, and good management practices. Still, researchers say there is something they do not know yet.
“We are a bit flummoxed,” Oceanographer Bill Peterson wrote to The Oregonian. “But what we have learned from this surprise is that we must be missing something so have recently begun to reevaluate our forecast models.”
Whatever is happening, inland anglers could not be happier. Neither could hotel owners, outfitters, restaurants, or boat renters.
“This fall fishery is going to be a big scramble for all of us,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “By the third week of August, you will not be able to find a parking spot in Astoria.”
The ODFW plans on officially presenting the forecasts for the Columbia River and other salmon run locations in March.
Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey