But the run remains late
Most Snake River system spring chinook anglers are waiting for better conditions before wetting a line.
Fish counts continue to show promising signs at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.
But the run remains late and much smaller than forecasted.
Through Thursday, 22,015 chinook adults were counted at Bonneville.
And for the past week, 1,400-2,900 chinook a day have been counted at the dam’s fish ladder.
But at Lower Granite Dam, about 35 miles west of Lewiston on the Snake River, only 77 chinook had been tallied through Thursday.
“Most of my guys are pretty much getting ready and figuring it’s (a week or 10 days) before they get out there,” said Stu Waters, owner of the Waters Edge tackle shop in Clarkston.
Larry Barrett, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologist at Lewiston, said salmon managers are still relying on last year’s count of returning jack salmon to predict this year’s run.
Sometime in May, fisheries officials will likely update the run forecast based on this year’s fish counts.
The current forecast calls for 129,000 spring and summer chinook to pass Lower Granite Dam.
Barrett said it’s too early to say if the run will come in as forecasted, and looking at past runs doesn’t help clarify the picture.
“If you apply the 2006 run timing, so far we have had a gigantic run, and if you apply the 2001 run timing that means we are almost done at Bonneville.”
The department did not find any successful chinook anglers last weekend during its creel survey.
The chinook salmon season opened in several Idaho rivers on Saturday.
But at that time just 31 chinook had been counted passing Lower Granite.
Barrett said anglers could start catching fish this week.
“It’s amazing how people can root a few fish out even when there aren’t too many of them,” he said.
Washington Fish and Wildlife monitors also failed to find any successful chinook anglers near Little Goose Dam, where the effort has been low. The department is waiting for fish counts at Snake and Columbia river dams to improve before opening any new seasons.
“Because the run is so late and so stalled and seems to be much smaller than expected for this time of year, the agency is putting on hold any new fisheries for at least a week or two,” said Glen Mendel, district fish biologist at Dayton.
“The way the fish run is going at Bonneville it doesn’t look very promising. It should be much higher than what it is.”
The high and cold water in the Snake River has been tough on most bass anglers as well.
Waters said the winning weight at a bass tournament last week was just more than 10 pounds for five fish. But he said some anglers were having good luck above the mouth of the Grand Ronde River before flows came up and the water turned muddy.
Barrett said bass fishing is likely to heat up in the near future.
“It’s going to break loose soon,” he said. “I know the fish are out there and it will give folks something to do while waiting for the salmon.”