Steelhead counts at Bonneville Dam on the Colombia River shatter one-day records !!

Of course, you can’t truly count them until they are in Idaho rivers, but so far a very strong run-

For those not familiar with the Columbia River and its tributaries, Bonneville Dam is first dam anadromous fish have to cross on the Columbia River on their journey home to spawn.

Steelie counts at Bonneville Dam on the Colombia River shatter record. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.





  1. Ryan Avatar

    Here is a follow up, please write comments and save the spill.

    We are all extremely excited about the huge bump in steelhead numbers over Bonneville dam. What folks may not know is thanks to Court-ordered spill, these adult returns had the lowest percentage of barged and trucked juveniles in recent history. (yeah, I know…. trucking fish to the ocean is part of BPA’s strategy!!)

    While we were fighting BPA and NOAA for summer spill to protect Snake River Fall Chinook, one of their big excuses to defeat our argument was that steelhead are better off barged! Seriously.

    Fortunately, in Redden’s River summer spill was provided and now the steelhead are telling their own story. Of course the ocean plays a big role, but there has always been ocean variability. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sockeye are outmigrate with similar timing and outcomes as well.

    The current plan in front of Judge Redden reduces summer spill up to 25%, and for those of us who fish, this is unacceptable. If you’d like to tell this to NOAA Fisheries, you can write to He is the acting regional director.

    August 19, 2009

    Contact: Liz Hamilton,, 503.631.8859 or 503.704.1772

    Increased steelhead run encouraging, but recovery at risk under proposed NOAA plan.

    Said Liz Hamilton, Executive Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, in response to the large number of steelhead returning over Bonneville Dam this week:

    “We cannot equate one good year with true recovery. Most Columbia River wild fish populations are no further from extinction today than when the first populations were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) more than 15 years ago.

    This year’s bonus returns are largely the result of spilling more water over dams when these fish were migrating out to the ocean as juveniles. U.S. District Court Judge James Redden ordered those in-river improvements after conservation and fishing groups fought to have them instituted — over the vehement objections of federal agencies.

    Alarmingly, the 2008 Bush plan, which is still pending in court, rolls back this salmon protection measure and federal agencies continue to state that steelhead prefer barges to migrating naturally in the river. The fish are telling us an entirely different story: since Judge Redden ordered spill, we’ve seen the best in-river steelhead survival since we started documenting it. And now we’re seeing the best returns too. And not only has this bolstered steelhead returns, but this has helped fall chinook and sockeye, which fuel sport, commercial and tribal fisheries from the Columbia River to ocean fisheries across the Pacific Coast. We are counting on Judge Redden to insist on maintaining these vital fish protection measures.

    In addition to having stronger runs because of Redden’s spill, this week’s surge is in part due to exceptionally warm river temperatures, which causes fish to hang back in cooler water before heading up to the warmer reservoirs behind the dams.

    What this year’s strong returns tell us is that we still have hope to recover endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead. When rivers are allowed to run just a bit more like rivers, salmon and steelhead are resilient enough to surprise us with their ability to rebound. Favorable snowpack and ocean conditions, combined with the court-ordered spill and river flow mandates, have done wonders for Snake River fish. Imagine what could happen if the four largest obstacles in their path, the four lower Snake River dams, were removed.

    The future of these iconic fish along with their cultural and economic benefits hinges on the long-term recovery efforts we put in place. Thankfully Judge Redden’s foresight has bought us some time, but we have to make bold changes now to ensure that we continue to see wild salmon and steelhead returning to our rivers. A federal plan that turns back these protections just falls too short of what we in this region are capable of if we all sit down together.”

  2. chris aff Avatar
    chris aff

    as the russian river wild steelhead society we are joining the fight down here in sonoma county. I hope you can help the feds and the power companies see what is right. keep up the good work. chris aff


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan