After the first few rains of fall, and well into October, biologists – armchair and professional – cope with a Rubik’s Cube of possibilities.
“It’s crazy,” said Billie Bowles in theGaribaldi Marina office. “Topsy turvy. I can’t believe this is the run … the usual suspects just aren’t catching them.”
That would be the Tillamook Bay return, which has been turning out fewer, but proportionally larger, fall chinook in spurts between strong tides that had the bay choked with weeds.
Toward week’s end, the bite there picked up. (And crabbing is excellent, by the way.)
Elsewhere, coho seem to be making a stronger appearance than predicted in some streams, depressed in others and, like winter steelhead, pretty much a no-show at Willamette Falls.
Fall chinook fishing has been excellent in the Rogue River at Gold Beach, but not as good along the central coast.
And every time fish counts at Bonneville Dam seem to finally fall off, late surging fish surprise everyone with daily numbers back into four figures.
Even Buoy 10 came back to life this past week, with good catches of hatchery (and released wild) coho, most are likely headed for tributaries below Bonneville Dam.
On the Clackamas River, PGE biologists reported a strong run of wild spring chinook over North Fork Dam (nearly twice the 10 year average) that’s been followed by nearly 5,000 wild coho through Thursday’s counting. Late-run coho (the original natives) could push the total over 7,000 for the second time in four years and way ahead of all but one of the previous 57 years’ counts.
Hatchery numbers are down, but so is the river and the next major rainfall should bring them home to Eagle Creek.
Fishing, meanwhile, has been pretty good for those who know how to use salmon eggs and spinners.
On the Sandy River, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery workers anticipate between 4,000 and 5,000 fish returning, well above last year’s run.
Already, anglers are heading home with limits and the next rain should bring in the bulk of the fish.
(Cheers, by the way, to volunteers who cleaned up Cedar Creek and Sandy River shorelines and shame on those who made it necessary.)
As for the Tillamook run, Billie Bowles at Garibaldi Marina said the marina’s largest fish so far was 41 pounds, but she’s seen several just under 40 and has weighed an average weight of about 30 pounds.
Chinook, it seems, found at least something to eat out there.
Robert Bradley, district fish biologist in Tillamook, isn’t that surprised since the strongest age class in this year’s run forecast were the 5-year-old chinook that “were out there a little longer,” he said.
Uh oh! And a big one, reported this past week in the Seattle Times newspaper.
Fisheries scientists in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found few juvenile salmon this past spring and summer in research nets dragged from Newport north to the Canadian border.
It’s the first time in 20 years of testing with such low numbers of chinook and coho.
In their place were warmer water fish like jack mackerel and pompano, and a small plankton-eating creature called a pyrozome.
While the infamous warm-water “blob” has dissipated from the north Pacific Ocean, it’s side effects haven’t.
Cheers: To Oregon and Washington for keeping their promise to allow some retention sportfishing for sturgeon in the Portland area (Wauna to Bonneville Dam) Saturday, Oct. 21, and Thursday, Oct. 26.
And the states clearly hinted during Wednesday’s conference telephone call we’re likely to repeat limited retention seasons next year in both the estuary and Columbia.
…And, probably, the Willamette River.
Estuary fishing in 2018 will have to pay back the 235 fish kept over the 3,000 allowed, but if the available numbers of legal-sized fish continue to rise, it may be a wash.
Only 745 legals were available in the Willamette this year, well below the expected daily catch.
But Tucker Jones, Columbia River project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said those uncaught fish might be applied to next year’s harvest, which could be enough to allow a day or two of retention fishing.
Cheers: To Oregon State Police for using a trail camera to snag two spotlighters in north Central kicking off an investigation ultimately leading to dozens of illegal kills across southwest Washington.
Washington officers used the Internet, photos and gps info inside the poachers’ own smart phones to pinpoint locations and discover evidence.
The poachers also allegedly bragged about their feats on social media.