By Bob Brown
The Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife recently released its statewide salmon run forecasts and harvest projections for the 2017 Alaska Salmon Fisheries and the 2016 season report. While the Alaska forecast may not be of interest to some individuals, the forecast is an excellent gauge of what fishermen in our area can expect this year.
The Alaska 2016 statewide salmon harvest included nearly 53 million sockeye salmon – the fifth-largest harvest since 1970 – but only 39 million pink salmon, the smallest harvest since 1977. The 2017 sockeye salmon forecast for commercial harvest is approximately 41 million and a projected harvest of 142 million for pink salmon.
If realized, the 2017 forecast harvest of 204 million salmon would be substantially greater than the 112.5 million harvested during 2016, owing mostly to larger numbers of pink salmon projected to be harvested than during 2016.
For additional information, see the Run Forecasts and Harvest Projections for 2017 Alaska Salmon Fisheries and Review of the 2016 Season Projections.
Other fishing notes
• Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reported that through March 25, only 12 adult spring chinook were counted at Bonneville Dam. That is the sixth-lowest total since 1938. The lowest was a two-fish count through the same day and month in 1949.
In more recent years, just eight fish had been counted through the same period in 2006.
Flows at Bonneville Dam have been the highest since at least 1950. On March 25, flows were 459,600 cubic feet per second (cfs). No other flows have been higher than 400,000 cfs for that date. The previous high was 391,800 cfs on the same date in 1972.
During the 1996 flood, flows were 298,000 cfs.
Hymer also reported good numbers of spring chinook (including upriver fish) are being caught in the Longview-Catchlamet area test fishery.
• The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that on a Saturday (March 25) flight, 104 salmonid boats and 95 Oregon bank anglers were counted from the Columbia River estuary to Bonneville Dam. Catch rates and effort remains low due to high, dirty water.
• The WDFW has closed the Chehalis River to spring chinook fishing, effective April 16 through June 30 from the mouth (Highway 101 Bridge) to the Higdhway 6 Bridge in the town of Ada.
The department said the forecast for spring chinook returning to the Chehalis River basin is less than the number of fish needed to meet conservation objectives (spawning escapement goal).
Steelhead and other game fish fisheries will remain as described in the 2016-17 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.
• Water conditions are high and turbid on the Skookumchuck. Anglers report fishing for steelhead has been iffy at best.
• Water conditions have not been good on the Cowlitz, and fishing hasn’t been that great, either. On March 22, flows below Mayfield Dam were approximately 14,600 cubic feet per second, with a water visibility of roughly five feet.
During March 20-26, fish samplers tallied 130 bank anglers with three spring chinook and 19 steelhead kept. Three steelhead were released. And 115 boat anglers kept two adult spring chinook and 41 steelhead. The fish were caught throughout the river.
Also, during that week, Tacoma Power recovered 149 winter steelhead adults, two steelhead jacks and 13 spring chinook and one cutthroat trout.
Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org