Fish Projections: Are Salmon Outsmarting Scientists?

DeHart, who is a fisheries biologist, agrees it should be a good year for salmon fishing, both spring and fall. He says there is always uncertainty where nature is involved, although efforts to boost salmon survival appear to be working – most notably, the additional water spilled over the Columbia River dams as required by a court order.

“The spills clearly produced additional survival. We saw it in the juveniles and now we’re seeing it in the numbers of adults. It’s an important addition, and one of the few new tools in the toolbox.”

Fish and wildlife departments in Washington and Oregon also credit good ocean conditions for improved fish survival. 

DeHart points out that at least 80 percent of the returning fish originated in hatcheries. The separate counts for the endangered, wild fish don’t look as impressive, he adds.

“They’re the ones that are ESA-listed and constrain fisheries. That’s the big challenge. And there the news is cautiously optimistic, but not great.”

If the forecast of 462,000 returning fish for a different salmon stock, the sockeye, is true, it would set a Columbia River record.

Fish forecast numbers are from the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Northwest Sportsman magazine.