Salmon, Steelhead Seasons
by Eric Barker
LEWISTON -- Idaho anglers will have another robust fall fishing season kicking off in a few weeks.
Catch-and-keep seasons will open for steelhead, fall chinook and coho on several rivers starting Sept. 1.
Anglers will be able to fish for hatchery fall chinook in the Clearwater River from its mouth to Memorial Bridge at Lewiston, and in the Snake River from the Idaho/Washington state line upstream to Hells Canyon Dam. The season in the Clearwater and most of the Snake will run through October, but could be closed earlier depending on harvest levels. A one-mile section of the Snake River from Cliff Mountain Rapid to Hells Canyon Dam could stay open through Nov. 17.
The lower Salmon River will be open as late as Oct. 31 from its mouth upstream about three-quarters of a mile to Eye of the Needle rapid.
The limit will be six adipose fin-clipped adult fall chinook per day. There is no limit on hatchery jack fall chinook. Jack chinook are those less than 24 inches long.
The state sought, but was not able to get, permission from federal fisheries managers to allow anglers to keep wild fall chinook.
Run forecasts call for as many as 40,000 fall chinook to return past Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River west of Clarkston this fall. However, most of those will either be wild chinook or hatchery chinook that have not had their adipose fins clipped.
Coho fishing will open on the entire Clearwater River, the Middle Fork of the Clearwater from Kooskia to Clear Creek and on the North Fork of the Clearwater downstream of Dworshak Dam. The season will close Oct. 31, unless harvest rates require an earlier shutdown of fishing.
Coho were declared extinct in the 1980s, but the run was reintroduced by the Nez Perce Tribe. Fishing was allowed last fall for the first time in many decades. Because coho are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, anglers can keep fish that have not been marked by having their adipose fins removed. Last year, about 18,000 coho returned to the Clearwater. This year, the tribe is expecting a range of 5,000 to 18,000 to return.
Fishing for hatchery steelhead will open on the Snake and Salmon rivers Sept. 1, with bag limits and rules identical to recent years. The preseason forecast calls for about 128,000 A-run steelhead to return at least as far as Lower Granite Dam, and 28,000 B-run steelhead.
The steelhead run, however, is lagging behind the 10-year average. Between June 1 and Aug. 18, 149,678 steelhead were counted at Bonneville Dam, and 1,945 steelhead at Lower Granite Dam. The 10-year average is more than 200,000 at Bonneville and 10,706 at Granite.
Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said warm water in both the Snake and Columbia rivers is likely responsible for the low numbers.
"We suspect many of the fish were holding out in the ocean waiting for temperatures to cool, and those that did enter the Columbia seem to be taking their time getting to Idaho," he said. "It looks like many of the steelhead are holding up in areas with cooler water temperatures."
But he said if steelhead don't start moving into the Columbia River in larger numbers soon, it could be a signal the run won't be as large as expected.
"The longer these lower numbers hang on, the harder it is to make up," he said. "Maybe it means the run is small, not just late."
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