Record Coho Salmon Runs

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A record number of Coho salmon made it through Lower Granite Dam this fall. The Nez Perce Tribe claims it is because of their monumental work of planting half a million Coho juveniles in the Lostine River Basin that did the trick. No doubt that these fish had a positive effect on the dam counts.

Even more impressive is the 9,454 Wild Early Season Coho that returned to the Clackamas River Counting/Sorting station at North Fork Dam the largest return since 1958. PGE the company that owns and operates the hydroelectric dams on the Clackamas River says the big jump in the Coho run is because of new infrastructure that allows fish to easily bypass dams. In 2016, a new floating surface collector was installed in the North Fork Reservoir which captures more than 90% of ocean-bound juvenile fish in the reservoir. The surface collector is the only facility in the region to move fish through a multi-dam complex using a pipeline, rather than trucking them to a release site.

Garth Wyatt, a senior fish biologist for Portland General Electric, said the fish collection rates on the Clackamas are among the highest in the region, and potentially the world.

This is very commendable, the way a public utility should manage our resources. Industry and nature should complement each other. This newsletter loves to print optimism.

Optimism about the health of our fisheries is the largest single factor in driving sales in the fishing industry. Few anglers feel excited about using fisheries in decline, nor should they. However, we must all be a little careful about taking credit when things go our way. Where fish management methods are concerned wouldn’t be better to announce new methods as being successful after they have been proven to be sustainable over a longer period, like 50 or 100 years? We are happy and applaud PGE’s new smolt moving gizmo. Hopefully it will also move young steelhead and Chinooks too?

Here are only two of what could be dozens of examples: In 2001 the Bonneville Dam steelhead counts were 633,073. This year with more than 95% of total steelhead counted past the same dam is 71,561 the lowest ever recorded. 2021 has been a banner year for Coho salmon for rivers west of the Cascade Mountain. Why are steelhead runs so bad and coho runs so healthy? Many management biologists won’t commit to why either is true. 

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