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No Rogue hatchery chinook headed for market this year

All right, it’s Ron again asking you the same question I pose Since You Asked each year ... How many Rogue River spring chinook salmon were sold or are going to be sold at Cole Rivers Hatchery this year. Since this is such a terrible run year, my guess is very few if any.

— Ron, Medford

Well, Ron, we can almost set our calendars by your annual email seeking answers to this common Cole Rivers Hatchery question.

And, for the second year in a row, hatchery Manager David Pease says he plans no excess Rogue spring chinook sales to commercial seafood processors.

Actually, there are barely enough chinook on hand now to help the state of Oregon meet its treaty obligations to Native tribes for chinook from Cole Rivers and other hatcheries, Pease says.

Typically, Cole Rivers helps provide the lion’s share of excess chinook for treaty obligations, records show. But this year Pease says he expects only smaller jack salmon and some adult males to feed the treaty kitty.

Last year, the hatchery provided 643 adult spring chinook and 161 2-year-old jacks to the tribes.

This year’s return to the hatchery has been dismal, with just 1,206 spring chinook running the entire 157 miles from the ocean to the hatchery collection pond near Trail, records show. That’s a hair under one-fourth the 10-year running average of returns by this time in the run, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The last time fish were sold to a processor was 2018, when just 415 adult spring chinook and 40 jacks as well as 22 smaller subjacks were sold for $5,564.75.

That’s quite a bit lower than the nearly $80,000 netted from excess hatchery chinook sold at Cole Rivers in 2013, records show.

The money from carcass sales goes to ODFW’s so-called “carcass fund” that helps fund things such as fish hauling and releasing here and at other federally owned hatcheries in Oregon.

After this year’s tribal obligations, those spring chinook remaining will go toward the stream-enrichment program in the Rogue River Basin, where chinook carcasses are placed in the Rogue to add nutrients back to the stream.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.