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Talked with a WDFW bio today that I have got to know over the last 5 years or so in my attempt to figure out what's going on with the late's in the Cowlitz this year.
Finally got it figured out.

The big difference which I already knew is in the amount of fish returning this and last year.
Last year (2002) was an all time record hatchery return on the Cowlitz late coho (type N) in the neighborhood of 75,000 coho!
This year the Washington late strains weren't predicted to be very strong with the Cowlitz having a rough preseason estimate of 26,000.
So far we have had approx. 18,000 lates return to the salmon hatchery at the Barrier Dam.
We were just past mid point of the Cowlitz run return timing and that would average out for a return of 32,000 coho or so.
There's a big difference between 30,000 and 75,000 fish even on a big river like the Cow when it comes to catching.
I'm just gratefull I discovered that fishery in the downtown Longview/Lexington area on a record year and turned some new & old friends on to it.
Wished I would have been on ifish last year to pass it on to others because there as I mentioned before was plenty of elbow room and obviously plenty fish to spare.

Another factor this year that could be making it a bit tougher is the amount of rain we had compared to the dry year of last year.
But it is obviously the amount of fish that is the difference.

The Cowlitz doesn't get as large of returns as I originally suspected I discovered after looking up the hatchery escapements on the WDFW website.
2001 the big hatchery year was also a record return on the Cowlitz for hatchery coho with a return of 70,000 fish.
If you get on their site you will notice about 15,000 jacks returned that year however and that did represent a record return the following year (2002).

Last year there were only approx. 4,500 jacks representing this years return of adults but we do have some 5,000 jacks that have returned already so far this year.
I might warn you that jack counts are only accurate to some degree but it is the best indicator on hatchery coho.
So maybe next year... :wink:

So for those of you that were concerned or claiming the gillnetters got all the fish, that is absolutely incorrect.
I hear that every year and I catch plenty fish every year even when the nets are in.
If you want to make a case against the gillnetters then bring up the indiscriminate killing of wild fish of which some are endangered.

So there you have it!
The late strain coho runs are doing what was predicted and that is just, so,so.
The early strains performed better than anticipated with larger returns than predicted preseason.

I caught quite a few incidental jacks on the Elocoman and Cowlitz this year for what little I fished but that is not very scientific and haven't heard anything exciting regarding hatchery coho jacks this year.
I suspect next year is just going to be a mediocre hatchery coho year and we will have a pretty good idea pretty soon.

So there are lots of fish to come yet and time for the Cowlitz but don't expect that they are running late and all the sudden there is going to be a million fish and you are in heaven.
It will probably be pretty much scratch fishing as it has been unless you happen in the right place at the right time. :wink:

I don't know that very many folks knew that last years Cowlitz return of hatchery coho was an all time record.
I didn't!


1,617 Posts
Dan, do you know how the early run of jacks did? Does the early run have a seperate jack return? Just wondering how the early jack counts compare to last year. I tend to catch more of the early run in the Salt and at B-10. Seems like the late run is more geared for the gillnetters and doesn't contribute a lot to the sportsfisherman (present company excluded.)
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