Once upon a salmon… in Oregon

random finds

Another random find online:

Some Factors Influencing the trends of salmon population in Oregon” from 1950








The ‘table of contents’ probably couldn’t be much simpler, nor paint such a clear picture:


Table of Contents


And here’s a summary of content:

Some factors...?

So there we are with the terra nullius assumption in the graph (e.g. Chinook catch was zero prior to 1870…) — however at least not in the text:

Explorers coming into the region… reported intensive fishing by the large Indian population at natural barriers.

(Granted, it’s odd language… were the Indian populations at the natural barriers or was that where the intensive fishing occurred?).

So we can see the trend of the population:

Around the mid-1880s over 40 million pounds of (just) Chinook salmon were landed on the Columbia River in commercial fisheries

Let’s just say a rough average of these Chinook being 15 pounds each… That’s almost 2.7 million Chinook alone landed in the Columbia by the commercial fleet!

And yet, no idea of sport catch… Or, no idea of what was captured by Native fisheries prior to that — or during that… (so all graphs suggest “0”…)

Regardless, we can see the trend… it’s a common one in fisheries catch statistics around the world — starts high on graph left and trends downwards as we move right towards the present day on the x-axis of the graph.

(At least in regards to looking at fisheries statistics on certain ‘economically’ valuable fish species… the trend in total fisheries catch trends up as human populations explode; however, the fish populations exploited are coming from further and further down the food chain).

_ _ _ _ _

Section 2: Possible Causes of Decline

This section of the report concentrates on Coho — or ‘silver salmon’.


The report focuses on Coho in the following Oregon rivers:

Oregon streams



Here is the Coho catch trends over a 26-year period:

trends of commercial Coho catch -- Oregon 1923 to 1949

Hmmm… similar trend… downwards.

The concerning thing with downward trending commercial catches is that these are not necessarily representative of populations — especially when the troll fisheries for coho were largely unrestricted until 1948.

unrestricted troll fishery

There is certainly ‘trends’ in actual fish populations that can be picked up in declining commercial catches — however they’re very worrying — as an unrestricted fishing fleet is not going to reduce efforts when they see declining catch numbers… they’re going to increase efforts, improve technology, and so on to ensure that the catches from the years previous are matched or improved upon.

(you know… no different then the standard corporate modus operandi… constant, and ever-present “growth” in revenues and profits).

And so declining commercial catches — in the face of ever-improving technology and knowledge — is a very worrisome trend for the actual fish populations (especially over a 26-year time frame… that’s not much time in fish populations — e.g. 6 – 8 life cycles).

Annual landings of Coho on Coquille 1923 - 1946


Annual landings of Coho on Stiletz 1923 - 194









Other Potential causes outlined in the report:

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

To be continued…

2 thoughts on “Once upon a salmon… in Oregon

  1. Nick

    There used to be a run of particularily large Chinook salmon in the Columbia river called the “June Hogs” which oddly enough used to run up the river every June. These salmon typically weighed in over 40 lbs and 50-60lb fish were not uncommon hence the term hog. Anyway they are all gone now, they disappeared around 1942 when they built the Grand Coulee Dam (another nail in the salmon coffin, a very big nail).

  2. salmon guy Post author

    thanks Nick,
    been reading and researching the Sacramento runs as well (posts most likely to come)… their Chinook are also famous for being monsters. The California “Gold Rush” certainly did it’s thing on Chinook habitat and continues to pose serious issues in places like the Yuba River and otherwise. visited that area several years back and it blew my mine-‘d’

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