Chinook Season Opens
by Eric Barker
Limited 2nd Round Already is Underway in Washington
Spring chinook season opens Saturday in Idaho, and a second round of fishing in short sections of Washington is underway.
But most of the spring chinook bound for the Snake River basin have yet to exit the lower Columbia River and push upstream above Bonneville Dam. Fewer than 1,000 springers had been counted at the dam as of Thursday, and only a dozen have passed Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River.
That presents eager anglers with less-than-ideal odds. But chinook aren't the only option for those looking to cast a line and enjoy the spring sunshine.
Smallmouth bass are becoming active on the Snake River and many of its tributaries. Fishing guide Travis DeBoer of Guerilla Guide Service said smallies are feeding aggressively on migrating salmon and steelhead smolts on the Grande Ronde River. DeBoer and his wife, Julie, recently hooked and landed nearly 100 smallmouth while fly fishing with streamers on the Ronde.
"Fly fishing for smallies has been fantastic," he said.
DeBoer expects the fish to continue to be aggressive over the next week or two as they prepare to spawn. The wild card though is the annual arrival of high flows as mountain snow melts and swells rivers. High-water conditions will make fishing difficult.
DeBoer encourages anglers to take advantage of the pre-spawn action and to take a few bass home for dinner.
"Man, they are crushing the smolts in the river," he said. "The fishing is so dang good. Part of me wants to be the classic greedy fisherman and not let anyone know. Then I remember I'm all about native salmon and steelhead, so we should probably get people fishing for them."
Bass haven't been active at Winchester Lake, but Steven Kuskie said trout, catfish, bluegills and sunfish are biting. The manager of Winchester Lake State Park said a fishing tournament there last week was well attended, and people caught plenty of trout.
The lake has been stocked with rainbow trout by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The department has also stocked or is in the process of stocking all of its family fishing lakes in the Clearwater Region. That includes spots like Mann Lake near Lewiston, Spring Valley Reservoir near Troy, Moose Creek Reservoir near Bovill and Kiwanis Pond on Snake River Avenue at Lewiston.
Golf Course and West Evans ponds west of Clarkston and those along the Tucannon River in Columbia County have been stocked by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Anglers who are pining for salmon over trout and bass can head to Dworshak Reservoir and fish for kokanee. The number of bluebacks in the 55-mile-long lake is down this year but still in excess of 150,000. The lower number should translate into a larger average size of fish.
According to a report by Idaho Fish and Game senior fisheries biologist Sean Wilson, anglers there are already consistently landing kokanee measuring 101/2 inches and even netting some as long as 13 inches.
In a typical year, kokanee don't reach 10 inches until July.
"If bigger kokanee are more important to you than more kokanee, this is should be one of your years," said Wilson.
For those fixated on big-shouldered, rod-bending salmon, there is a hint of progress in the spring chinook run. Daily counts of salmon passing Bonneville Dam have jumped in the last week or so. On April 18, just 27 salmon were counted in the fish ladder there. On Wednesday, the daily count was 181. That pales compared to the 10-year average of about 2,600, but it's progress, however small.
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