Chinook Salmon Season Opens
by Eric Barker
Fishing for chinook salmon will open on the Clearwater River, its North, South and Middle forks, the Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake rivers on April 26.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved the season during a telephone meeting today.
The rules for this year's spring and summer chinook season will be similar to those in 2004. But the commission is allowing anglers to catch and keep two hatchery jack chinook per day this year that will not be counted toward their daily or season bag limits. Fishing will be open seven days a week from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset.
The bag limits for the Clearwater River and its tributaries will be two adult hatchery chinook per day and 40 for the season, in addition to two jack chinook per day. Anglers must stop fishing, however, for the day once they catch and keep two hatchery adults.
On the Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake rivers anglers will be able to catch and keep three hatchery salmon per day and 40 for the season in addition to two jack salmon per day. As always anglers will not be able to keep wild salmon on Idaho rivers.
The Clearwater River will be open from its mouth at Lewiston to the start of the Middle Fork near Kooskia. The North Fork of the Clearwater will be open from its mouth to Dworshak Dam. The South Fork will be open from its mouth to the confluence of the American and Red rivers near Elk City. The entire Middle Fork of the Clearwater will be open to fishing and the Lochsa River will open on May 24, the start of Memorial Day weekend.
The lower Salmon River will be open from Hammer Creek to Short's Bar near Riggins and most of the Little Salmon River will also be open. The Snake River will be open from Dug Bar in Hells Canyon upstream to Hells Canyon Dam. The Snake River will not be open in the Lewiston area.
State and federal fisheries managers are expecting a bountiful run of nearly 100,000 of adult spring and summer chinook salmon to return past Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River about 35 miles west of Lewiston. Of that number more than 80,000 are expected to be hatchery fish.
But the run to date is behind historic schedules. As of Tuesday, there were 7,844 chinook counted at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River near Portland. The 10-year average is 34,810.
Larry Barrett, a fisheries biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said there should be fishable numbers of chinook in the Clearwater River by the first week in May.
"It's exciting to have a big predicted run like this," he said. "We hope they just keep coming. We are watching the Bonneville counts each day just like a lot of people are watching the stock market."
The run is projected to be the biggest return of hatchery chinook to the Snake River and its tributaries since 2004 and be about 10 times larger than last year's return of hatchery chinook.
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