OLYMPIA - The fall chum salmon run that is flooding into Puget Sound-area streams this year might just be one for the record books, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The current estimate is that the total Puget Sound fall chum run could reach 3 million fish – likely the biggest return since record-keeping began in 1913.
The return includes slightly more than 1 million chum in southern Puget Sound, about 800,000 fish in Hood Canal, about 600,000 fish in the Stillaguamish and Snohomish river systems and more than 300,000 chum in the Skagit River.
"A number of factors account for this gigantic return," said Dick Geist, WDFW fishery manager. "Parent spawner numbers were very large four years ago. Winter flooding has been moderate in recent years, which has helped winter egg and fry survival in the stream gravels. And ocean conditions have been favorable, producing large returns of both wild and hatchery chum salmon."
Geist said the biggest runs in recent years occurred when 1994 and 2001, with about 2.75 million chum returning in both years.
The big returns are good news for sport fishers. Anglers have a number of area fishing opportunities, including the Hoodsport hatchery and Skokomish River in Hood Canal, the Nisqually River in southern Puget Sound, and the Skagit, Stillaguamish and Snohomish rivers in northern Puget Sound.
There are also a number of sites to watch chum spawning, including the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail in the Olympia area, Pipers Creek in Seattle's Carkeek Park and Clarks Creek, between Tacoma and Puyallup.
More chum information is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/chum/ on the Internet.