Outdoors

Predicted runoff could be good timing for Idaho salmon anglers

Spring chinook salmon caught in the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho. (Exodus Wilderness Adventures)
Spring chinook salmon caught in the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho. (Exodus Wilderness Adventures)

SALMON FISHING — Rain predicted for this week is forecast to cause a big surge of runoff in the region's rivers.  It won't be pleasant for a lot of people.  But the silver lining could be tamer rivers when the late-arriving spring chinook salmon finally get up over Lower Granite Dam and head into Idaho.  

Read on for a report and thoughful analysis from Amy Sinclair of  Exodus Wilderness Adventures and fishing guides in Riggins.

Holly heat wave; Riggins hit 93 degrees yesterday. I can not believe that is not some kind of record. The river sure is on the rise with this warm weather; 40,400 CFS as of this morning and on the rise. The Salmon River is expected to reach a flow near 60,000 CFS this Friday night late or early Saturday morning. It would be awesome if this was the big flush and we got rid of a substantial amount of the snow pack so that when the Chinook arrive we have decent fishing flows.  

If you have been watching the Fish Passage Center, you may have gotten a little excited when you saw the last few day’s numbers. As predicted, the number of fish crossing Bonneville Dam increased substantially in the last four days. As of yesterday, April 23, 10,683 adult Chinook and 96 jack Chinook have crossed. Numbers jumped from the hundreds at the mid point last week into the thousands over the weekend; the best day so far was yesterday where 4376 adult Chinook crossed. Unfortunately the numbers at Lower Granite are still low; 2 adults have crossed as of yesterday but no jacks have crossed yet.

So what does all that information mean and more important…when is the fishing going to be good on the Salmon River? Well here is what the information translates to in laymen’s terms; Bonneville Dam is the first dam the Chinook face and is the start of the counting. These fish are not all Idaho fish but rather everything from the Columbia, Snake, Clearwater and Salmon River basins and their tributaries. So this dam is pertinent to get an idea that the run has started. Lower Granite Dam is the dam that is really of interest to the Snake, Clearwater, Salmon and Little Salmon River fisher people. This dam indicates the fish that are destined to these waters and their tributaries or as I like to think…“Idaho Fish”. A portion of these fish will be Salmon River fish and we know that once they cross Lower Granite, based on past runs, the portion of fish coming to the Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers are about 14-20 days out. So when the Chinook numbers passing Lower Granite are in the 1000’s, fishing in the Riggins area is about 2-3 weeks out.

The 2012 Chinook Salmon Season on the Clearwater, Snake, lower Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers will open on April 22 and close when the harvest quota is met. The daily limit will be 4 fish; 2 adult (over 24”) and 2 jack (less than 24”). THE EXCEPTION: The North Fork of the Clearwater River will only be allowed 1 adult.

Please remember that unlike any other fishery, this fishery is very tightly regulated to ensure the safety of these fish and to protect future runs. Outfitters operating on the Salmon River will be limited to 6 clients per day and outfitted fishing will be restricted to the section of river from the Riggins City Park Boat Ramp down river to approximately 200 yards below the Hammer Creek Boat Ramp. The Department of Fish and Game are still working with NOAA Fisheries to open a season in the upriver section of the Salmon River between Vinegar Creek and Spring Bar (for power boats) or Island Bar (for drift boats) for summer Chinook. This is still in the proposal stage but if approved by NOAA it will likely open in June.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


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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