ODFW Delays Spring Chinook Fishing on Imnaha
Fishery managers announced this week that the spring chinook salmon fishing season scheduled to open this Saturday, June 21 on northeast Oregon's Imnaha River has been delayed in hope that more hatchery-origin fish make their way back to river.
Surveys indicate approximately 70 percent of the fish in the Imnaha River so far are of wild-origin and off limits to harvest. Wild Imnaha spring chinook are part of the Snake River spring/summer chinook salmon "evolutionarily significant unit" that has been listed threatened under the Endangered Species Act by NOAA Fisheries.
According to the federal agency, that ESU includes naturally spawned spring/summer-run chinook salmon originating from the mainstem Snake River, the Tucannon River in southeast Washington, Oregon's Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers, and Idaho's Salmon River subbasin. It also includes spring/summer-run chinook salmon from 11 artificial propagation programs. ESA "take" limits largely apply to the naturally born fish.
"Because our sport fisheries are regulated by both the number of wild fish handled and hatchery fish harvested, I'm concerned that opening the fishery this Saturday will exhaust our wild impacts before a substantial hatchery harvest can occur," Yanke said. The current unseasonably low flows in the Imnaha also could result in higher catch rates for wild fish, Yanke added.
Fishery managers plan to open the fishery in the near future when more hatchery fish are available in the river.
"I realize this delay will disappoint many anglers who were looking forward to fishing on Saturday," Yanke said. "However, we are confident that meeting our conservation responsibility today will result in significantly better fishing opportunities once numbers of hatchery fish begin to arrive."
Anglers looking to fish salmon this weekend can still fish the Wallowa River, which remains on-schedule to open this Saturday. The Wallowa is a tributary to the Grande Ronde.
Overall, the pulse of fish into the region would appear to be strong. A total of 79,167 adult spring chinook had been counted at southeast Washington's Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River through June 17. That total ranks third on a record dating back to 1975, behind only counts of 94,203 in 2010 and 172,715 in 2001, according to annual spring chinook totals posted online by the Fish Passage Center.
Lower Granite is the eighth and final hydro project the fish must pass on their way to spawning grounds and hatcheries. Upstream are the mouths of the Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Clearwater and Salmon rivers.
The jack count at Lower Granite was 13,732 through June 17. That would be the fourth highest total on record. Jacks are early maturing fish that return after, at most, one year in the Pacific Ocean.
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