Having been fishing for spring Chinook for 40 years, I’ve seen them get smaller and smaller through the years. 20-pounders were common with a few 30-pounders in the mix — yeah, the good ol’ days. Now, it has declined to seven or eight pounders with a few in the teens.
The article about the poor return this year was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me write this.
Just one look at the fish count makes it obvious as to what the problem is. With more shad coming over the Bonneville Dam in one day than spring Chinook for the whole year, we should get a clue.
Shad, just like salmon, are anadromous, spending three to five years in the ocean before coming back to spawn. Shad spend their time scarfing down the same zooplankton the salmon smolts need to get big and strong. The blob is not slowing the shad down. In fact, with over five million returning last year and looking like another bumper crop this year, they seem to be doing quite well.
Shad were introduced to the Sacramento River in 1871 and, like any good non-native invasive species, expanded like wildfire, they showed up in the Columbia River five years later and made it to Alaska by 1926. With an estimated 4 to 5 million spawning below Bonneville, that’s eight to 10 million in the Columbia alone. No telling how many total from California to Alaska, but a whole lot of hungry mouths on fish that are bigger and faster than a salmon smolt, competing for the same food.
How come every non-native, invasive species is under attack by our game department or government except shad? Maybe we need our government to break out with some money and we could study it, and when the salmon are added to the extinct list, we will know why.