Fall Chinook Season
by Eric Barker
Fisheries managers propose Sept. 1 start date
Fisheries managers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have proposed fall chinook fishing seasons on the Snake River that could start as soon as Sept. 1.
"It looks like there is going to be one of the largest fall chinook runs, if not the largest run, in over four decades," said Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for Fish and Game at Lewiston.
More than 28,000 fall chinook are predicted to return past Lower Granite Dam, 35 miles west of Lewiston. Most of those will be bound for the Snake River above the mouth of the Clearwater River at Lewiston. DuPont said about two-thirds of the run will be hatchery fish and two-thirds of those will be marked by having their adipose fins removed. Anglers will be allowed to keep only those fish without adipose fins.
If the season in Idaho is approved by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at its meeting in Idaho Falls next week, fishing would start Sept. 1, the same day the Snake River opens to catch-and-keep steelhead fishing. Anglers would be allowed to keep up to one adult or jack fall chinook per day between the Idaho and Washington state line and Hells Canyon Dam. The season would remain open until Oct. 31, or until further notice. Anglers could keep 40 salmon for the year, including spring, summer and fall chinook.
Washington is proposing a season that would allow fishing on the Snake River from the railroad bridge below the mouth of the Tucannon River to one mile above Little Goose Dam. The department is also considering opening an area below Ice Harbor Dam. Glen Mendel, district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Dayton, said the season could be approved by the department's director as soon as next week.
Both seasons are designed to allow steelhead anglers who incidentally catch fall chinook to keep them and would be the second consecutive on the species that is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Last year Idaho and Washington held short fall chinook fishing seasons on the Snake River. Fewer than 200 chinook were caught.
But this year's season would open a month earlier and in Idaho includes more open miles of river. Idaho fisheries officials have proposed opening the Snake River from the Idaho and Washington state line to Hells Canyon Dam. Last year the season was open from Interstate Bridge to Hells Canyon Dam and it didn't start until October.
"The thought was if we open the season in September almost all the steelhead fishermen are down at the confluence (of the Snake and Clearwater rivers) and it doesn't make sense to have a fishing season where nobody is fishing," DuPont said.
By the time fishing opened last year, he said, many of the chinook had started to turn dark and were reluctant to bite just prior to spawning in November.
"Hopefully this time people have the opportunity to catch some brighter fish."
The Clearwater River will not be open to fall chinook fishing even if the season on the Snake is opened. DuPont said those anglers who fish near the confluence will have to be careful to make sure they are not in the Clearwater River if they keep fall chinook.
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