Outdoors blog

Snake River spring chinook fishing seasons start April 20

SALMON FISHING -- Three sections of the Snake River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon starting April 20 with the stretch below Ice Harbor Dam, according to an announcement just released by the Washington  Department of Fish and Wildlife

Idaho's spring chinook season opens April 23.

Two other Washington sections of the Snake River – one near Little Goose Dam, the other near Clarkston – will open April 25.

Read on for more details and catch limits.

The daily catch limit for most of these areas is two hatchery-reared chinook marked with a clipped adipose fin and four hatchery jacks, measuring less than 24 inches.

The exception is the area along the south shoreline of Little Goose Dam upstream to the juvenile-bypass return pipe, where anglers may retain only one adult chinook and one jack per day. Anglers fishing in that area must stop fishing for the day once they catch and keep one adult chinook salmon.

In all areas of the river, anglers must use barbless hooks and release, unharmed, all steelhead and all chinook salmon with an intact adipose fin.

According to the pre-season forecast, some 198,400 spring chinook salmon will return to the Snake River in southeast Washington, including 66,000 hatchery fish.

That forecast is strong enough to open three areas of the river to chinook fishing, but not the area near Lower Granite Dam that was open last year, said John Whalen, manager of the eastern region fish program for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“The return estimate isn’t quite as robust as last year,” Whalen said.  “As a result, only three of the four sections of the Snake will be open for hatchery chinook fishing this year.”

Those fisheries are scheduled to run through May 31, but could be closed earlier if catch monitoring shows too much impact on wild stocks, Whalen said.

He said the fishery would not have opened at all this year without revenue available from the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement.

“The federal permit for this fishery requires close monitoring of impacts on wild fish,” Whalen said. “Without the $8.75 anglers pay for the endorsement, the department could not afford the necessary level of monitoring.”

The three sections of the Snake River opening to chinook fishing this month are defined as follows:

  • The section below Ice Harbor Dam, which opens April 20, extends from the Highway 12 Bridge at Pasco upstream about seven miles to a point approximately 400 feet below the dam.
  • The section near Little Goose Dam, which opens April 25, extends about nine miles upriver from the railroad bridge (about a half-mile downstream from the mouth of the Tucannon River) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat launch on the south shore about a mile upstream of the dam. The open area includes waters between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline, including the walkway area known as “The Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility. 
  • The section near Clarkston, which opens April 25, from the intersection of Steptoe Canyon Road with Highway 193 in Whitman County, upriver about 12 miles to the Idaho state line, from the north termination of the rock levee on the east side of the Greenbelt boat launch (near the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office) northwest across the Snake River to the Idaho/Washington marker on the north shore. 

Additional information about the fishery is included in the Fishing Rule Change notice, available on WDFW’s rules website.

Whalen also encourages anglers to review the 2010-2011 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet, in effect through April 30, 2011, and the new 2011-2012 sport fishing rules pamphlet, which will posted on the rules website and available from license dealers later this month. 

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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