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Chinook Salmon Head Up The Columbia In Big Numbers

Anna King
Retired Hanford pipe fitter Melvin Miller, 60, was fishing early for Chinook salmon on the Columbia River near Columbia Point Marina in Richland, Washington.

Fisheries experts say the return of chinook salmon to the Columbia River may not quite break records this fall as expected.

Last year’s run of nearly 1.3 million salmon was a record, but future years may not bring those kinds of numbers.

Retired Hanfordpipefitter Melvin Miller was on the river early in the morning, and back at the Columbia Point Marina in Richland by 10 a.m. He didn’t catch any fish this time out, but said he did reel some in earlier in the week.

“The very first one we caught was bright enough to barbecue, but typically this time of year, everything I catch just goes on the smoker,” Miller said.

But Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said we shouldn’t set expectations for a great catch too high.

“The future is bright for us from a salmon perspective, but we also have a lot of work to do to keep it in a good place,” he said on TVW’s Inside Olympia program.

Anderson added that the ocean conditions for salmon happen to be good right now, and that’s just lucky.

But there are things to look out for that will affect fisheries in the Northwest such as international fishing treaties that are up for renewal soon and federal funding for programs like hatcheries and habitat protection.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.