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Wed., May 22, 2013, 10:14 a.m.

Clearwater chinook fishing too hot; adult harvest curtailed

FISHING -- Good conditions and a surge of fish into Idaho's Clearwater River provided excellent fishing for spring chinook over the weekend, as predicted.

But the turnout was so heavy and the fishing was so good, anglers virtually caught their entire meager allotment of this year's spotty run in one swoop.

Idaho Fish and Game has closed the river to fishing for adult spring chinook after anglers caught about 540 mature salmon over four days. The estimated season harvest share is about 640 fish.

The good news is that when the season on the Clearwater reopens on Friday (May 24) anglers will continue to have good fishing for a big run of about 4,000 jacks.

Read on for details and more explanation from Joe DuPont, IFG regional fisheries manager in Lewiston:

...This report comes with some mixed emotions. First of all, the fishing was extremely good last week in the Clearwater River and it was good to see so many people enjoying themselves. A combination of perfect water conditions and a compact run hitting the fishery all at once led to a lot of harvest in the lower Clearwater River.

Just to give you a feel for how unusual this was, you would have to go back to 2001, when the harvest share was more than 20 times higher than this year’s to find a scenario when we essentially went from a week with no harvest to the following week experiencing what we did this week (and this was just over 4 days).

We estimated 540 adult Chinook salmon were harvested in the Clearwater drainage over the last 4 days which brings our total adult harvest estimate to 557 fish. And this is what pains me: our estimated adult harvest share is around 641 fish which only leaves 84 adult fish for us to harvest.

Because of this, we are closing down all adult harvest in the Clearwater River drainage. We will use the remaining adult harvest share to provide us a Jack fishery (we will accrue 1 adult harvest for every 10 we release).

So starting Friday (May 24) when the fishing reopens in the Clearwater River drainage, the following areas will be open to the harvest of only Jacks (daily limit of 4):

  • The mainstem Clearwater from Lenore Bridge to Greer Bridge
  • The North Fork Clearwater River (no fishing from boats)
  • The Middle Fork Clearwater
  • The South Fork Clearwater

Notice there will be no Chinook Fishing allowed downstream of Lenore Bridge.

I know these rule changes will make many of you angry, and you have every right to be so. Our plans were to distribute the harvest of adults throughout all the communities, and unfortunately the upriver communities we cut short. I really do apologize. This certainly has been a learning experience for me and hopefully we can all have some good discussions on how to make sure harvest is more equitably distributed throughout all communities during these smaller runs.

At this point I say we try and enjoy the Jack fishery we still have – it should be a good one. We are projecting that 4,000 plus Jacks will reach the Clearwater River this year.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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