2017 adults are the progeny of the 2014 parental brood. That WAS a good coho escapement year throughout the PNW.
Freshwater juveniles emerging from the gravel had to endure the ultra warm and low flows of the 2015 summer heatwave. That wiped out a significant portion of the freshwater life stage. Only the toughest bad-ass fry could survive that first year in the river.
The very same fish then smolted in the spring of 2016 where they found a warm ocean devoid of lipid-rich copepods and a plethora of invasive predators expanding their reach into the warmer sea surface.... thanks to a warm phase PDO that has persisted for nearly the past 4 years.
So in the end, final adult recruitment from the mega-brood of 2014 was bound to be poor (whether hatchery or wild). The only bright spot? Fewer fish sharing the same limited pasture allowed the remaining bad-ass survivors to grow with less competition to a very nice size once they were large enough to chase bigger prey items like baitfish and squid.
That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.
"Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." (Zane Grey)
"If you don't kill them, they will spawn." (Carcassman)