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Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: You may have seen the dismal reports on this year’s steelhead returns on the Columbia. Our own Dave Moskowitz provides the nitty gritty in his 3rd report from the Conservation Angler on the 2017 returns as of the end of August. The silver lining is that there has been slight improvement since his last report. However, the low numbers speak for themselves. If you are out on the river fishing, please take care to give them a quick release and keep ‘em wet. LKH

Columbia - Snake River Wild Steelhead Report No. 3

The Conservation Angler is providing you with an updated status report on the 2017 Columbia River wild summer steelhead crisis.

Pre-Season Forecasting:  
Annually, managers analyze adult returns and out-migration data to provide a pre-season run forecast for salmon and steelhead.  The 2017 pre-season forecast for the three steelhead run components issued on March 24, 2017 was as follows:  

Columbia Summer Steelhead – 2017 Pre-season Forecast (March 24, 2017)
Early summers (Skamania run) = 11,300 total, with only 4,100 wild fish.
  A-run summer steelhead = 112,100 total, with only 33,000 wild fish
B-run summer steelhead = 7,300 total, with only 1,100 wild fish

Actual 2017 Run Size to-date: Bonneville Dam
Here is a snapshot of things so far in 2017 from July 1 to August 31
- The early run "Skamania" steelhead totaled fewer than 4,000 adults which is the lowest count since 1970).
- 71,472 total upriver summer steelhead have passed Bonneville Dam.  This is a small but welcome uptick!
- In 2016, 97,756 adult steelhead had passed Bonneville by 8/31.
- In 2001, 444,053 steelhead had passed Bonneville by this date!
- The 2017 total is only 30.8% of the most recent 10-yr average (2007-16).
- 24,877 wild summer steelhead have passed over Bonneville Dam.
  - In 2016, 30,773 wild steelhead had passed Bonneville by this date. 
- In 2001, 75,555 wild steelhead had passed Bonneville Dam by this date!
- The 2017 wild steelhead return is only 29.4% of the most recent ten-year average for wild steelhead returns past Bonneville.
- Wild steelhead comprise 34.8% of the total steelhead past Bonneville Dam.

Actual 2017 Run Size to-date: The Dalles Dam
Here is a snapshot of things so far in 2017 from July 1 to August 31
- 17,082 total summer steelhead have passed The Dalles Dam. 
- In 2016, 31,406 adult steelhead had passed by 8/31, and in 2001, 196,360 steelhead had passed The Dalles Dam by this date!
- The 2017 total is only 15.1% of the most recent 10-yr average (2007-16).
- Only 7,339 wild summer steelhead have passed over The Dalles Dam. 
- In 2016, 12,806 wild steelhead had passed The Dalles by this date. 
- In 2001, 70,548 wild steelhead had passed The Dalles Dam by this date!
- The 2017 wild steelhead return is only 15.9% of the most recent ten-year average for wild steelhead returns past The Dalles.
- Wild steelhead comprise 43% of the total steelhead past The Dalles.

Actual 2017 Run Size to-date: Lower Granite Dam
Here is a snapshot of things so far in 2017 from July 1 to August 31
- 719 total summer steelhead have passed Lower Granite Dam. 
- In 2016, 5,493 adult steelhead had passed by 8/31, and in 2001, 18,087 steelhead had passed Lower Granite Dam by this date.
- The 2017 total is only 6.3% of the most recent 10-yr average (2007-16).
- Only 448 wild summer steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam. 
- In 2016, 2,288 wild steelhead passed Lower Granite Dam by this date. 
- In 2001, 6,680 wild steelhead had passed Lower Granite Dam by this date.
- The 2017 wild steelhead return is only 9.8% of the most recent ten-year average for wild steelhead returns past Lower Granite Dam.
- Wild steelhead comprise 62% of the total steelhead past Lower Granite.

Notes:
1. The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to the US v. Oregon Court Settlement downgraded their pre-season forecast on August 14, reducing the original forecast for A-run summer steelhead from 112,100 fish to 54,000 fish (hatchery and wild combined).
  2. The current passage number is 63.8% of the original forecast.
3. High water temperatures at the Bonneville Dam prevented steelhead sampling research for the first ten days of August, hampering efforts to count B-run steelhead.
4. The B-run steelhead forecast has not been updated by TAC.
5. Idaho, Washington and Oregon have reduced the bag limit for hatchery steelhead to ensure enough hatchery steelhead return to hatcheries, while no specific measures have been taken to ensure that wild steelhead return to spawn in their home rivers.

Protecting ESA-Listed Steelhead:
Fishery managers are trying to manage non-tribal commercial and recreational fisheries so that impacts on ESA-listed wild A-run and wild B-run steelhead do not exceed 2%.  To put that percentage in real numbers, that means that sport and non-tribal commercial fisheries must not result in more than 660 wild A-run summer steelhead mortalities nor more than 22 wild B-run summer steelhead mortalities between the mouth of the Columbia and the confluence of the Snake River.

The Conservation Angler continues to believe that the current slate of time and area closures, plus the creel and monitoring efforts in place are insufficient to avoid exceeding the ESA-impacts, let alone providing enough wild steelhead escapement to spawn in their natal rivers and streams. 

Key Questions Remaining Unanswered: 1. What measures are being taken to monitor the upstream migration of B-run steelhead and track wild B-run steelhead mortality
2. What measures are being taken to ensure enough wild steelhead reach and spawn in their home rivers

Take Action:
None of the agency conservation measures adequately address the impact of tribal platform and net fisheries on extremely scarce wild steelhead.

If you are concerned about wild steelhead and agree that not enough is being done, please forward this email along with your personal concerns to:

Odfw.commision@state.or.us
james.scott@dfw.wa.gov

If you would like more detailed information, please go to our website or Facebook page for The Conservation Angler’s detailed recommendations to conserve Columbia and Snake River wild steelhead in the recreational and commercial fisheries planned for the Columbia River this year.

Next up:
1. B-run steelhead run size updates.
2. Reports on the monitoring of current commercial and recreational fishing impacts on wild steelhead.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to forward this message.

Sincerely,
David A. Moskowitz, Executive Director
The Conservation Angler
971-235-8953  

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