I hope that you survived the winter well and are looking forward to some of our favorite spring and summer pastimes. My mind has been on salmon fishing, and I wanted to let you know where things stand with fisheries in Wallowa County this year.
Based on our preseason forecasts (see table) we have made plans to possibly open fisheries in Lookingglass Creek and the Imnaha River this year, but not in the Wallowa River. The scale of the fisheries will be modest, much like last year.
Based on the preseason predictions, harvest quotas are currently 120 adult fish in Lookingglass Creek and 80 adult fish in the Imnaha.
However, whether we actually get to open those fisheries is uncertain at the moment. In a nutshell, this is looking to be either 1) the lowest or 2) the latest Columbia River salmon run in decades (hopefully not both).
As of May 8, there were around 24,000 salmon counted at Bonneville Dam, compared to the 10-year average of 100,000 salmon for May 8. For the three local stocks that we fish on, only one Lookingglass PIT tag has been detected that expanded to 89 fish. By now, we typically have seen the majority (84 percent) of the Lookingglass stock across Bonneville.
However, a silver lining –– there is some indication that the fish are there, but high flows and very cold water are holding back salmon from migrating. Salmon counts did increase at Bonneville Dam at the end of last week; 4,000 and 6,500 fish were counted on May 4-5, corresponding to a brief drop in flows and increased temperatures.
When flows increased again over the weekend, salmon counts dropped to 1,500-2,500 per day. In addition, researchers in the lower Columbia have been radio-tagging hundreds of salmon and tracking them as they cross Bonneville Dam.
To date, the majority of those tagged fish are still below Bonneville, probably awaiting the environmental cue to rush upstream. Of course, with the snowpack we still have coming, who knows when that environmental cue will come?
Locally, we will remain optimistic and continue monitoring the run during the next few weeks. Stay tuned for further updates.
Jeff Yanke is Wallowa District Fish Biologist based in Enterprise. He can be reached at the ODFW office 541-426-3279.