Returns of spring Chinook and steelhead remained low in 2020 in the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan (Figure 1). A total of 1,554 spring Chinook (639 natural-origin and 915 hatchery-origin) returned to the Upper Columbia in 2020, which was the lowest return to the region since 1999. A total of 2,375 steelhead (849 natural- and 1,526 hatchery-origin) returned in 2020 which was one of the lowest returns on record, and the lowest return total in the last 40 years (WDFW 2020). The 12-year geometric mean of natural-origin returns for both species remains well below the goals set for delisting in all four basins and decreased for both species in 2020.
The Upper Columbia spring Chinook return was 50% of the recent 10-year average return (3,131 fish). Although total returns were low, the return of natural-origin spring Chinook was higher in 2020 than it has been in the last three years. The Upper Columbia steelhead return was 40% of the recent 10-year average return (5,827 fish). Steelhead natural-origin returns were also higher than they have been the last three years.
Total spring Chinook counts at Priest Rapids Dam show that the run of 5,501 adults in 2020 was much lower than the previous two years and only 32% of the most recent 10-year average. Of the spring Chinook that returned to the region, 2,262 were unlisted spring Chinook returning to Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (Muir et al. 2021). Steelhead counts at Priest Rapids rebounded in 2020, with 6,506 adults passing for the year. This total was 25% of the 10-year average. (Columbia River DART 2020).
Returns to the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan showed similar trends in terms of slight increases in returns in 2020 (figure 1). Of particular note is the larger increase in natural-origin returns to the Entiat subbasin and the substantial reduction of hatchery-origin fish to this unsupplemented population through the reduction in strays from other areas. Returns to the Entiat still remain low and well under recovery goals.