Late-stock coho salmon returns to the Columbia River appear significantly better than forecast, Washington and Oregon fishery officials said Wednesday.
A weak run of just 98,600 late coho was predicted to enter the Columbia this fall. That's far less than half of the 248,100 that returned in 2009. The five-year average is 161,400.
Late coho begin entering the Columbia in early October and peak in mid- to late October.
John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildife said while no numerical update is available yet for late coho, indications from Bonneville Dam and the Cowlitz River are encouraging.
The forecast was for 23,000 late coho to Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, North said. With 13,000 already in hand, the run looks like it will be 60,000 to 70,000, he added.
At Bonneville Dam, the forecast was for 21,000 late coho, but 32,000 had been counted through Monday, said North.
The Cowlitz and Bonneville Dam numbers account for about 50 percent of the late run.
"These two indicators of late coho are tracking high,'' he said.
An estimated 4,000 coho and 300 chinook were caught during 12 hours of gillnetting on Tuesday, North said.
Les Clark of Chinook, a commercial fisherman, said the net fleet needs two to three days per week to catch late coho effectively.
"These fish will move,'' Clark said."We're getting weather (intermittent rains) and so they are not laying around. We've had excellent movement into the streams. The rain on the weekend moved fish out of the Columbia...This is a scratch fishery from here on out.''
Commercial fisherman Kent Martin of Skamokawa echoed Clark.
"The squirty nature of silvers is they move real fast,'' Martin said.
Commercial fishing periods for Thursday and Sunday night were adopted by the Columbia River Compact. Officials will meet again Monday to consider additional gillnetting next week.
Chinook retention downstream of the mouth of the Lewis River, closed since mid-September, will reopen today
Continue from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday from the mouth of the Lewis River to Beacon Rock, 8-inch minimum mesh.