A total of 5,059 spring Chinook salmon have crossed Lower Granite Dam as of 5/25/17. In 2016, a total of 42,093 had passed by now. The ten year average on this date is 43,019.
A total of 7,291 steelhead have crossed as of 5/25/17. These are fish that spent the winter in-river. In 2016, a total of 5,467 had passed. The ten year average on this date is 9,022.
Of those steelhead, only 3,038 were wild. The rest were hatchery fish.
We are either experiencing a slow start to the spring Chinook run, a very small run, or a combination of both. River flows have been high and cold this year, making passage difficult. The 2015 juvenile Chinook, many of which are returning this year as adults, experienced extreme levels of mortality in the hydrosystem during their migration to the Pacific Ocean. You can read more about that here.
As a result, the Spring Chinook fishing season in Idaho was halted on the Clearwater, Salmon, and Little Salmon Rivers in response to these low returns. Idaho Fish and Game officials are worried that not enough Chinook will return to the hatcheries to satisfy their needs (to make more fish for the future). You can read more in this article by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. Spring Chinook fishing was also closed in Washington State due to anemic runs.
In addition, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon are all currently considering fishery closures for B-run steelhead too.
This seems like a return to the years of low returns experienced in the 1990’s.