2022 salmon forecasts here for season setting
March 17, 2022
Washington fishery managers unveiled on March 4 salmon run forecasts for state waters in 2022, with many forecasts looking similar to last year’s predictions, and some slight improvements or declines by area.
Cooperatively developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and tribal co-managers, these forecasts mark the launching point for the annual North of Falcon process to develop Washington’s salmon fishing seasons. The forecasts cover expected returns of Chinook, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon in Puget Sound, the Columbia River, and Washington’s coastal areas.
Though forecasts for many areas look similar or somewhat improved from 2021’s forecasts, many returns remain below their historical averages and some fisheries will likely continue to see constraints to ensure conservation goals are met for threatened or endangered salmon populations.
The forecasts are based on the latest scientific modeling and a variety of data including environmental indicators such as ocean conditions, numbers of juvenile salmon that migrated to marine waters, and numbers of adult salmon that returned in past years. The following are summaries of this year’s forecasts, which vary by area:
Columbia River: About 230,400 upriver bright fall Chinook are expected to return to areas of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam, a slight decrease from the 239,900 that returned in 2021 and well below the 10-year average.
Coho forecasts prior to any river or ocean fisheries occurring, are slightly up from 2021’s return of 829,800 fish, with just under 1 million fish expected to return in 2022, and is more than double the 10-year average.
“The return of hatchery coho to the Columbia River is expected to be the largest we have seen since 2014, but as always we will have to plan fisheries that meet ESA limits for listed coho, Chinook, sockeye and steelhead,” said Kyle Adicks, WDFW’s intergovernmental salmon manager.
Coho fishing could be impacted if catches of other stocks are higher than anticipated, potentially restricting fishing access in specific areas as happened on a section of the mainstem below Bonneville Dam in 2021.
Sockeye returns to the Columbia are forecast to be up to nearly 200,000, compared to last year’s return of 152,309 fish. However, several stocks are down and are expected to limit lower river fisheries. The endangered Snake River sockeye run is forecasting only 200 fish and Lake Wenatchee sockeye forecast is below the escapement goal.
Washington’s ocean waters: Coho returns on the Washington coast, meanwhile, are expected to be up significantly over 2021’s forecast. An estimated 454,693 fish are expected to return to coastal areas, up more than 200,000 from last year’s forecast of 241,800 coho. The biggest increases are expected in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay but returns to many coastal rivers are also expected to improve over 2021.
About 73,000 lower Columbia River “tule” Chinook are expected to return this year, very similar to last year’s forecast. These fish make up a sizeable portion of the recreational ocean fishery. The 2021 return came in slightly above forecast, but still below the 10-year average.