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Spring Chinook Poised for Opening Run

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, February 3, 2005

Forecast calls for 75,000 hatchery chinook to return to the Snake River system

Anglers can expect a good, but maybe not great, spring chinook return to the Snake River and its tributaries this year.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game expects 75,000 hatchery-reared springers to return above Lower Granite Dam, 35 miles west of Clarkston.

Another 17,500 wild spring chinook are expected to make the journey.

That means the state could have its core salmon fishing areas open, including the Clearwater River, South Fork of the Clearwater, lower Salmon River and Little Salmon River.

But the state's chief forecaster warns the agency won't know what areas will open for sure until salmon actually start to show up in the lower Columbia River.

"Everything in the data says we are going to have opportunity this year," says Fish and Game biologist Scott Marshall at Boise. "(But) we are really unsure about the distribution and the final magnitude (of the run).

"It looks good enough to say let's plan on at least opening."

There are some confusing signals in the data.

Biologists forecast salmon runs by counting the number of jack salmon that returned the previous year. Jack salmon are males that return prematurely to spawn.

The jack return to Lower Granite was good. The return of jack salmon reared at Rapid River Hatchery near Riggins and McCall Hatchery near McCall also was good.

But the return to Dworshak National Fish Hatchery at Ahsahka on the Clearwater River was not so good.

Even though the jack numbers at Dworshak were low, fisheries officials still believe the river will have fishable numbers of adult salmon.

Regional Fish Manager Ed Schriever at Lewiston notes the Clearwater River also gets salmon from hatcheries at Powell, Red River and Kooskia. The department is likely to propose a salmon season similar to ones in the recent past, he says.

It will be up to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to make the final decision on the length and breadth of the salmon season.

The department will once again hold public meetings before the salmon season to ask anglers how they would like to see fishing structured.

After hearing from anglers last year, the department and commission opted to have a smaller daily bag limit in the hope it would ensure a longer fishing season, spread out across more water.

Spring chinook already are showing up and being caught in the mouth of the Columbia River.

Joe Hymer, a biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Vancouver, says state, tribal and federal fisheries officials expect 403,000 spring chinook to return to the mouth.

Of those, it's expected 254,100 are bound for the Columbia River and its tributaries above Bonneville Dam, and 104,700 are expected to head toward the Snake River.

Spring chinook season is open from the Columbia River mouth to the Interstate 5 Bridge.

"There is getting to be more and more reports of fish being caught," says Hymer.

"Frogs are croaking and plants are starting to grow. People's thoughts should start to turn to spring and spring chinook."

Eric Barker
Spring Chinook Poised for Opening Run
Lewiston Tribune, February 3, 2005

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