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Snake River spring chinook seasons set in Idaho, pending in Washington

Sat., April 8, 2017, 6 a.m.

Idaho will open a four-day-per-week spring chinook fishing season on the Clearwater River, and daily fishing seasons on the Snake River in Hells Canyon and the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, starting April 22.

Washington’s proposal for a two-day a week season on the Snake opening around April 28 is still pending.

Idaho’s season on the Clearwater River and its open tributaries will come with a daily bag limit of four chinook, but only one of those can be an adult. The lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers will have a daily bag limit of four chinook, with a maximum of two adults. Adults are those salmon at least 24 inches long.

The return to the Clearwater River is down this year and anglers will only be able to harvest a total of about 1,900 fish. To lengthen the season and allow monitoring, fishing will be open Thursdays through Sundays and closed Mondays to Wednesdays.

Fisheries managers all along the Columbia and Snake rivers are anxiously watching this week’s fish counts at Bonneville Dam, which were the lowest since 1949 for April 3. But the salmon could just be late, they say, noting that spring chinook counts at the first dam they reach on the Columbia normally peak around the first week of May.

Idaho’s section of the Clearwater River from Five Mile to Kamiah will be closed this year to make it easier for fisheries officials to monitor harvest rates, said Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

As in past years, a short section of the Clearwater River near Big Eddy will be closed to boat fishing. The shoreline around Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and the area near the fish ladder at the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery will be closed. There is also a short section of the North Fork closed to fishing.

Washington expects to open three sections of the Snake River to spring chinook fishing near Clarkston, Little Goose Dam and Ice Harbor Dam for two days per week in a season that would be almost identical to the one held last year.

Under a proposal outlined by Chris Donley, fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and district fish biologist Jeremy Trump, anglers would be allowed to catch one spring chinook per day in the season that could open on April 28.

It would be structured the same as last year’s season, with fishing allowed on a short section of the Snake near Clarkston and another near Little Goose Dam on Sundays and Mondays, and a section near Ice Harbor Dam on Fridays and Saturdays.

Donley said keeping the same days as last year would allow Washington anglers to fish in the Clearwater if they choose on Thursdays through Sundays and then also fish on the Snake on Mondays.

“We have a weekend day and also a day that is not open in Idaho,” he said.

Anglers will be allowed to catch a total of 820 adult spring chinook from the Washington section of the Snake River, which is likely to make for a short season.

During the past few seasons, Idaho anglers have enjoyed unusually good fishing conditions with few periods of high and muddy water. DuPont said the big snowpack in the mountains that feed the Salmon and Clearwater rivers could change that this spring.

Outdoors editor Rich Landers contributed to this story.

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