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NW Fishletter #232, June 14, 2007

[2] States Split Over New Salmon Plan

The adult spring chinook run is drawing to a close at Bonneville Dam, but a couple hundred chinook jacks (precocious males) are still passing the dam daily, pointing to the likely prospect of a large return next year that could materialize into one of the top three spring runs since the dam was built.

The Bonneville jack count hit over 20,000 by the middle of June, 250 percent better than the 10-year average.

But the news was even better at Lower Granite Dam, hundreds of miles upstream, where jack counts topped 8,500 by June 13--a whopping 437 percent above the 10-year average, and a far cry from last year's measly 875 jacks. That's nearly an order of magnitude better than last year's jacks, 980 percent.

The adult spring chinook numbers at Lower Granite have added up to just over 21,056 fish, 10 fish more than last year's count, and several thousand less than 2005's spring return.

But the 8,500-plus jacks that have returned in 2007 could mean more than 100,000 adults will show up there next year. The 9,790 jacks that were counted at Lower Granite in 2000 by this time presaged a 2001 return of 172,000 chinook.

In 1997, times were tough, and so were the El Niños. Only 64 jacks showed up at Granite by June 13 of that year, nearly as bad as the 1994 jack count of 43 that presaged an adult run of 1,105 springers, about the worst spring run ever.

However, those 64 jacks in 1997 signaled an adult run the following year that added up to 9,800 adults, so jack counts have to be taken with a grain of salt when predicting the future, say harvest managers, who have had mixed results when making predictions during periods of changing productivity in ocean regimes. -B. R.

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