Jack Chinook Numbers
by Eric Barker
Numbers of immature salmon returning to area rivers give clues of future runs
Idaho's spring chinook season is on its last legs, but it is leaving anglers a glimmer of positive news on its way out.
The Little Salmon River near Riggins and the Snake River in Hells Canyon are still open to anglers hoping to catch a salmon, but it's been a poor season overall.
Biologists had predicted a bit of an off year, but the fish failed even to live up to their muted expectations. Fishing on the Snake River in Washington and the Clearwater River in Idaho was cut short when it became clear the run would fall well short of expectations. Fishing on the Salmon and Little Salmon rivers was allowed to continue only after biologists switched to a four-day-a-week season and narrowed its geographic span.
Idaho Fish and Game biologist Brett Bowersox at Lewiston said it appears next year's season at least will be better. That is based on this year's return of jack chinook, those that return to fresh water early after only spending one year in the ocean. Biologists keep tabs on jacks as a way to predict the following year's returns. In general, the strength of the jack run in any given year is repeated the following year by the return of chinook that spend two years in the ocean.
This spring, 2,336 jacks returned to Clearwater River hatcheries and 1,331 returned to Rapid River Hatchery near Riggins. While far from the more robust jack runs, it was better than the 2016 jack run.
"We know the prediction is wrong; it's not down to the individual fish," he said. "It's a place to start thinking about what we may be seeing next year."
Bowersox said the prediction calls for a return of 15,423 hatchery chinook bound for the Clearwater River to make it at least as far as Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, and for a return of 12,762 chinook bound for Rapid River Hatchery.
"Based on jack returns this year, the data makes us optimistic next year will be a better run."
Bowersox said fishing on the Little Salmon River and the Snake River in Hells Canyon was good last week, but effort has dropped dramatically.
Spring Chinook Season Ends Sunday by Staff, Lewiston Tribune, 7/12/17
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