ID Fisheries Officials Worry
by Associated Press
LEWISTON, Idaho -- The chinook fishery may prove disappointing for fishermen this year, with fewer fish expected to return to Idaho waterways, fisheries officials say.
The preseason forecast calls for 27,707 spring and summer chinook to swim past the Snake River's Lower Granite Dam this April, May and June. Just 16,700 of those will be hatchery-born fish that can be caught and kept by anglers during open fishing seasons.
The remainder will be fish that were born in streams and are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
"The total run size is somewhat of a decrease from last year," said Sharon Kiefer, anadromous fish manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boise. "What has our radar screen up is the forecast for hatchery fish has dropped quite a bit from last year's return."
More than 20,000 hatchery spring and summer chinook returned to Idaho last year, enough for limited fishing seasons on the Clearwater, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers. If this year's forecast holds true, fishing could be even more limited.
But predicting the number of spring and summer chinook that return from the ocean each year is difficult at best. Fisheries biologists base their predictions on the numbers of jack salmon - fish that spend just one year in the ocean and return prematurely.
Kiefer said the department will be monitoring salmon returns to base fishing proposals on actual runs.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission typically doesn't set the fishing season for Idaho fishermen until April or May. Downriver states will have a fishing season. A forecast released by the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife departments predicts 38,500 spring and summer chinook bound for the Snake River will return to the mouth of the Columbia River this year.
Last year, 53,000 Snake River spring and summer chinook returned to the mouth of the Columbia. The forecast for that year was 46,200.
In total, Washington and Oregon expect 164,000 spring and summer chinook to return to the mouth of the Columbia River. That forecast includes fish bound for the Snake River, the upper Columbia River and tributaries to the lower Columbia River.
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