Fish populations

Fisherman on the middle Columbia River

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What we know about fish populations in the middle Columbia River

Some numbers are falling, others are improving

In Washington, the middle Columbia and its tributaries encompass 30 demographically-independent populations of salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. Of these, 20 populations of steelhead and bull trout are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Bull Trout

The 14 populations of bull trout—all listed—show varying trends, with some populations collapsing while others are improving. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a recovery plan but chose not to set abundance goals for bull trout populations.


Of the six populations of steelhead, five have sufficient data to determine population trends. Steelhead in the Yakima River basin have made a dramatic turnaround since the 1980s, when less than 500 returned in some years. Today steelhead runs of 5,000 to 7,000 fish are a regular occurrence, though 2017 and 2018 runs have not been as strong.

Indicator data

Adult Abundance Summary Table
Adult Fish Abundance

What does this indicator mean?

Juvenile Fish Abundance

What does this indicator mean?

Need more data and more time

While data on juvenile fish abundance is being collected in the Yakima basin, more work needs to be done to develop a dataset that shows trends in the number of young fish leaving for the ocean each year. The Yakima Klickitat Fisheries Project, which brings together the Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is working to improve juvenile fish monitoring.

Visit How we measure for background about this data, and our Salmon Data Portal for original source data behind the indicator charts and graphs used throughout this site.