Only the deeply disturbed anglers among us would start dwelling on next spring, especially with such solid winter blackmouth and steelhead opportunities available right now!
Hello, my name is Tom, and I am a deeply disturbed angler…
It's not entirely my fault that I got all excited since late on Friday in the very dead of winter, a glimmer of spring in the form of the following headline appeared in my email:
Fishery managers predict 470,000 Columbia River spring Chinook in 2010
SALEM, Ore.—The technical committee advising Columbia River fishery managers has released its forecast for the 2010 spring chinook run. If the fish show up as projected, the forecast of 470,000 spring chinook would be the largest return to the Columbia since 1938.
FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY THOUSAND SPRINGERS???
THE LARGEST RETURN SINCE 1938???
Ok, now back to reality for a moment. The spring chinook run forecast accuracy over the last few years has been, well, optimistic to say the least.
Here is a table that shows the Columbia River spring chinook prognosticators track record over the last decade with the largest "overshoots" highlighted in yellow.
The 2009 springer run was forecast at nearly 300,000 chinook and yet only 169,000 showed up! When only half (56%) of the projected run shows up in a fishery that is as hotly contested and highly coveted as the Columbia springer run, well, there is bound to be some unhappy folks.
Among 2009's "unhappy" were the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission who is demanding payback for last year's shortfall. Fortunately, with this bumper crop of springers heading this way, WDFW and ODFW should be able to craft seasons that will allow us sport fishers to have similar or increased opportunity to last year while still fulfilling the tribal allocation issue.
So why the optimism of an accurate forecast in the wake of the most inaccurate springer forecast in history? Members of the joint WDFW/ODFW and Tribal co-managers who actually calculate the forecast are known as the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC had to reconsider the model they have used in past years to predict the number of returning fish.
According to Stuart Ellis, current chair of the TAC and fisheries scientist of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), committee members were leery of the record number of spring chinook “jacks” counted at Bonneville Dam in 2009. Jacks are immature, precocious males that return after just one or two years in the ocean. In the past few years, forecasts relying heavily on jack counts from the previous season had overstated the actual return of adult fish by an average of 45 percent.
Ellis said this year the committee considered several additional models that took into account other factors such as ocean conditions.
“The number of jacks that returned in 2009 was four times greater than anything we’ve seen before, which made the number a statistical anomaly,” Ellis said. “At the same time, we know the environment for young salmon appears to be changing and we needed to account for that.”
“We’re still projecting a strong return for upriver spring chinook salmon next year, but we needed to temper last year’s jack return with other indicators of spring chinook abundance,” he added.
The seven models chosen by TAC generated a range of predicted run sizes from 366,000 to 528,000 adults. The committee members agreed on 470,000 as an average of the models. This forecast will now be used by the managers to develop preseason fishing plans.
So now we're looking straight down the barrel of a possible springer run of 528,000??? How can you read that number and not get fired up???
Now, if only it would stop snowing….