For the second year in a row, steelhead returns to the Upper Columbia are expected to be well below the level to meet minimum spawning escapement objectives which will result no angling opportunities this fall. Poor outmigration conditions (drought) in 2015 and the “thermal blob” in the Pacific Ocean which extended into the Gulf of Alaska through early 2016 had similar impacts on upper Columbia salmon stocks as well. Second only to steelhead, the 2017 sockeye return was only 28% of the ten-year average while spring Chinook came in at 55%. Once Leavenworth met their broodstock goal, a short season was able to be offered to recreational anglers. The relative bright spot was summer Chinook. While they did feel the pinch, the 2017 return was 90% of the ten-year average. In addition, this year’s fall Chinook forecast, while not as robust as previous years, should still provide good angling opportunity for those wanting an excuse to be out on the water.
And while anadromous fishing opportunities are down, anglers should be reminded that this region boasts some of the most robust and diverse resident fish fisheries in the entire state. From golden and cutthroat trout in high mountain lakes, to warm water fish such as bass, walleye, and bluegill (a kids favorite) in lowland lakes and the Columbia River. In addition, while sturgeon fishing closed for the season in Lake Roosevelt, there are still sturgeon opportunities in the Columbia River below Rock Island Dam.
By Barbara Carrillo, Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board and Mike Tonseth, WDFW