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Idaho Expects Strong Spring Chinook Fishing Season;
Already More Fish for Harvest Than Last Year

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 2, 2014

Ice Harbor is the first Snake River dam salmon hit on their upstream migration. (Graph: Fish Passage Center) Fisheries managers are expressing confidence about a strong chinook salmon fishing season in Idaho after recent increases in the number of fish being counted in the Columbia River, including more than 17,000 counted passing Bonneville Dam in one day this week.

Although current counts of the upriver 2014 spring chinook run at Bonneville are only reflective of the front half of the run, those numbers have been robust and Idaho's fishery managers are now fairly certain the run will come in at, or above the pre-season forecast.

That is good news on top of good news for Idaho salmon anglers because the forecast already predicted the 6th highest return in the last 20 years.

The Wednesday count at Bonneville -- 17,409 adult chinook -- is the 17th highest single-day count on record, and the third highest since 2002. Bonneville is the first of eight dams in the Columbia-Snake hydro system the chinook spawners must pass on their way back to Idaho.

Most of the Idaho bound salmon counted in the front half of the run are headed to the Clearwater River basin, the Hells Canyon reach of the Snake River and the Rapid River Hatchery in the Salmon River basin near Riggins.

There are already enough spring chinook over Bonneville Dam to support good fisheries in the Clearwater and Lower Salmon rivers and more are on the way, according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials. It is still too early to pin down how many fish will be available for harvest but it's safe to say it will be significantly more than were available in 2013 -- especially in the Clearwater River.

Through April 30 an estimated 10,000 hatchery chinook salmon destined for the Clearwater basin have already crossed Bonneville Dam. Last year only 6,700 Clearwater River hatchery chinook crossed during the entire run.

Salmon fisheries opened in the Clearwater River basin, Hells Canyon of the Snake River and reaches of the lower Salmon River on April 26. Fishery managers expect good numbers of salmon in the lower Clearwater River by this weekend and fishable numbers of salmon should start showing up in the lower Salmon River about one week to 10 days later. Anglers should check the regulations for details including fishing area descriptions and bag limits.

Chinook returning to the South Fork Salmon River and hatcheries in the upper Salmon River typically arrive at Bonneville Dam during the latter part of the run.

Managers are optimistic those stocks will also meet preseason expectations based on this year's performance of the earlier arriving stocks. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider fishery proposals for the South Fork Salmon River and areas in the upper Salmon River during the panel's May 15 meeting.

Idaho Expects Strong Spring Chinook Fishing Season; Already More Fish for Harvest Than Last Year
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 2, 2014

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