Fall Chinook and Coho Salmon Forecasts
If the Fall Chinook, coho and steelhead returns hold up to the early season forecasts, anglers can anticipate another exciting fall. Warm temperatures and low flows have affected salmon migrations this summer and managers don't know what conditions will persist into fall.
"We expect a good fall season, but it's too soon to tell how many fish will actually show up," said Joe DuPont, Fish and Game fisheries manager based in Lewiston.
Fall Chinook: Over 40,000 adult fall Chinook salmon are forecasted to return to Idaho this fall, compared to almost 60,000 adults passing over Lower Granite Dam last year.
While fewer fall Chinook are expected, the good news is Idaho Fish and Game expects a good number of these fish to be older, larger fish approaching 20 pounds. However like last year, anglers are reminded that many of these fish will have intact adipose fins and must be released.
These fish have just started passing over Bonneville Dam and counts are looking good. While it's early in the run and a lot can change, current numbers suggests this fall will be exciting.
Coho Salmon: Anglers can enjoy the second consecutive coho salmon season in over 30 years this fall. Last year, over 18,000 coho passed over Lower Granite Dam, with the previous high around 5,000 fish. This year, fisheries managers predict the run to be somewhere between these two numbers.
Coho returns to the Snake River are difficult to predict, mainly because the run is so new. Based on forecasts for Columbia River coho salmon, sufficient numbers of coho are anticipated to return to the Clearwater River to allow some sport fishing opportunity and meet hatchery brood goals.
The season is a result from the work of the Nez Perce Tribe, which initiated a hatchery program to restore coho to the Clearwater River basin. Anglers can expect most coho to arrive in Idaho in late September and early October.
Because anglers may keep coho salmon with an intact adipose fin, while fall Chinook salmon with an adipose fin must be released unharmed, it's important for anglers to carefully identify their catch before harvest. Color fish illustrations are printed in the general fishing seasons and rules brochure and online at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/fish/knowCatch.pdf.
Steelhead: The preseason outlook is for a season similar to last year's, when around 70,000 Idaho bound hatchery steelhead passed over Lower Granite Dam. This is about average when compared to the last six runs. While most of these fish will be destined for the Salmon River, anglers fishing the Clearwater River for the larger B-run fish can also expect similar numbers as last year.
Unfortunately, steelhead counts over Lower Granite Dam for this time of year are the lowest observed since 2006. Fisheries managers believe the slow start is largely due to high water temperatures.
"We suspect many of the fish are holding out in the ocean waiting for temperatures to cool, and those entering the Columbia seem to be taking their time getting to Idaho," DuPont said. "The counts should really pick up as water temperatures cool in the Columbia."
Fall Chinook and Coho Salmon Forecasts Look Good; Steelhead Run Delayed
News Bonners Ferry, August 19, 2015
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