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Heads up Clearwater anglers: spring chinook parading into Idaho

FISHING — There's not a discouraging word to be found in the forecast, starting with this weekend, for spring chinook fishing in Idaho.

Here are highlights from today's spring chinook update by Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston:

  •  As expected, catch rates were low for last weeks salmon opener in Idaho, as the fish were just getting here.
  • All the fish we documented being caught were around Lewiston; about 16 adult fish.
  • One fish measured 40 inches long and we heard of another that was pushing 30 pounds. 
  • By this weekend there should be 10 times as many fish in Idaho as we saw during the opener; fishing should be much better. 
  • It wouldn’t surprise me if this weekend people catch salmon in the Clearwater River upstream to Orofino and in the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam. 
  • Those of you who like to fish the Rapid River run may have to wait another week or two before the fish start arriving in catchable numbers. 
  • Clearwater river sections have been given harvest quotas developed by anglers in an effort to fairly distribute harvest throughout the different communities in the Clearwater basin. Sections can close as quotas are taken.
  • I hope you are all getting as excited as I am about this Chinook run.  My excitement certainly got the best of me as I went out and bought a new rod and have started loading up on tackle. 

Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing is based out of Clarkston, but heads to the lower Columbia River to fish for springers before they run upstream to Idaho.

"We have finished up our Columbia River spring chinook season and will be moving onto the Snake and Clearwater Rivers for this weekend," he said today. "We expect to start seeing catch rates on the Clearwater to pick up this weekend and continue to get better throughout May," 

Here's more for Wyatt's report:

"These fish were hard to catch on the Columbia this year due to the low and clear water, as they were screaming up river past our baits. Our best days we were hooking eight-nine fish.

"Salmon are piling over Bonneville Dam in great numbers and we are above our 10-year average. To date we have seen 114,000 cross Bonneville, most of these early fish are bound for the Clearwater and Salmon Rivers and their tributaries.

"Lower Granite Dam, the last dam before they reach the Clearwater has seen more than 7,300 fish. 

"The Clearwater is going to fish awesome this year with the low water."

To put the 2015 springer run into perspective from the beginning — that is from Bonneville Dam, the first dam the fish encounter as they head up from the ocean into the Columbia 'River —  here are today's "factoids" from Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon specialist in Vancouver.

Spring Chinook counts at Bonneville Dam through April 28:

  • The 114,163 adults are the 9th highest total since at least 1939.  The record is 301,293 fish in 2001.
  • If the dam counts continue to remain strong like the 17,045 adults counted yesterday, all but the record is within reach. 
  • The 1,085 jacks are the 6th highest total since at least 1980.  The record is 5,114 fish in 2000.
  • Based on the 24 four-year-old PIT tags detected at Bonneville Dam yesterday, nearly 950 of the 17,045 adults counted were originated from Carson National Fish Hatchery (on Washington's Wind River). 

Corps completes dredging in Snake-Clearwater rivers

RIVERS — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today completed maintenance dredging in the barging channel and two port berthing areas in the Snake and Clearwater rivers where accumulated sediment had interfered with navigation.

"Dredging was performed to meet a current immediate need to re-establish the federal navigation channel to its Congressionally authorized dimensions of 250 feet wide by 14 feet deep at Minimum Operating Pool (MOP) elevation," the Corps said in a release.

Dredging began Jan. 12 after protests by fish-related groups and a court ruling about the environmental impacts of the project.

Maintenance dredging was completed this year in accordance with the Corps' comprehensive Programmatic Sediment Management Plan (PSMP) during the annual winter in-water work window, Dec. 15 through Feb. 28, when salmonid fish are less likely to be present in the river, although steelhead continue to move over the Snake River dams.

Maintenance dredging last occurred in the lower Snake River navigation channel in the winter of 2005-2006.

"Navigation on the lower Snake River is now safer," said Lt. Col. Timothy Vail, Walla Walla District Commander. "We considered potential alternatives, determined dredging was the only effective short-term tool for addressing problem sediment."

Dredging initially took place at the downstream lock approach of Ice Harbor Dam, then later on the Lower Granite Lock and Dam pool at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers in the Lewiston-Clarkston area, including Port of Lewiston and Port of Clarkston berthing areas.

The ports obtained their own dredging permits and paid for dredging of their berthing areas.

The Corps says dredged materials were used to construct additional shallow-water fish habitat near Knoxway Canyon (River Mile 116), about 23 miles downstream of Clarkston.

Clearwater steelheading ‘on fire’

FISHING — Dan Barth reports that the steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River "has been on fire" the past week.

He said his boat hooked more than 50 fish!

"Plus it was sunny and warm in Orofino."

Clearwater steelheaders report good winter fishing

FISHING — Save for the periods of high, off-color water, the winter steelheading in Idaho's Clearwater River has been outstanding, says state Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager Joe DuPont.

Catch rates have been as low as five hours per fish, which is considered excellent for the hard fighting, yet sometimes elusive ocean-going rainbow trout.

Here are details from DuPont:

Unlike most anadromous species, Idaho steelhead can spend many months in fresh water before they spawn in the spring, giving anglers extra opportunity to fish for them. In the past few weeks Clearwater steelhead have begun showing up in the South Fork Clearwater.  Between 15 and 100 steelhead have been moving into the South Fork each day. More anglers are fishing the South Fork, and Dupont expects those numbers to increase as spring approaches.

While catch rates on the Lower Clearwater rose a bit at the end of January, anglers should not be discouraged. There are plenty of fish still moving through the system, and the best is yet to come.

As you get closer to spawning, you will see more fish showing up in the areas they were released from. Late in the season, you can experience incredible catch rates in the lower Clearwater.”

One of the major release points is just below Dworshak Dam. Most steelhead spawn in March and early April, so anglers fishing the North Fork Clearwater (below Dworshak) and the main Clearwater just downstream from the North Fork will have good opportunity to catch more steelhead in less time for the next six to eight weeks. The same phenomenon will occur in the Salmon River, as steelhead continue to move up the system toward the places they were hatched or released.

Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing out of Clarkston has an even higher opinion of the recent action in today's fishing report:

Steelhead fishing on the Clearwater has been epic, catch rates are well into double digits. All of our boats hit double digits every day in January, making it the best month we can remember. We are continuing to see excellent catch rates so far this month. Currently we are off the river due to high and muddy flows, but the river is on the drop and will be fish-able by the start of next week. We expect the Clearwater to fire back up and no doubt we will be back to some red hot fishing! We still have a good month left in the season so get a hold of us to experience some of the best fishing we’ve seen in years.

Check out some cool drone footage shot on the Clearwater by a Reel Time client on Jan. 29-30:


  • See information on Idaho steelhead fishing, including dam counts and catch rates.

Steelheading improves in Idaho’s Clearwater River

FISHING — Anglers fishing the Clearwater River are enjoying a healthy increase in the number of steelhead returning, according to the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

After a lackluster season in 2013-2014, the number of “B-run” steelhead is up in 2015, and anglers are taking advantage.

Creel surveys and angler reports for the week ending on Jan. 25 indicate good success among anglers fishing the Clearwater with 265 anglers reported catching 277 steelhead.

"Numerous anglers have reported catching their daily limit of three hatchery steelhead this month; in some cases harvesting their limit within a few hours," according to the regional fisheries report.

Overall, anglers averaged one fish every five hours during the seven day period, with much of the action taking place on the weekend.

North Fork Clearwater anglers averaged 10 hours per fish during the week of ending Jan. 25. Anglers are not only catching fish in large numbers, they are also catching some large steelhead; as long as 37 inches.

Fishery managers expect angler success to remain high throughout the Clearwater drainage over the next three months. Anglers are also finding steelhead in the Salmon and Snake Rivers, and catch rates are likely to improve as water temperatures rise during the approach of spring.

Giant rainbow trout caught in NF Clearwater

FISHING — An Idaho angler fishing the North Fork of the Clearwater River caught the big one he had to let get away.

On Jan. 8, Larry Warren landed a rainbow trout downstream from Dworshak Dam that would easily be a new state record, but he couldn’t legally keep it.

Any rainbow trout longer than 20 inches with an intact adipose fin is legally considered a steelhead and must be released if caught in waters where steelhead might be found.

Wild steelhead (ocean going cousins of rainbow trout) are protected in the Snake River system under the Endangered Species Act.

Hatchery steelhead are marked by removing the adipose fin. In order to ensure wild steelhead are protected in Idaho waters, Fish and Game requires all rainbow trout longer than 20 inches be released unharmed in waters where wild steelhead naturally return.

Warren landed the monster rainbow and knew he had no choice but to let it go, but he and his fishing companion took photographs and weighed and measured the giant before putting it back in the water.

Their scale put the rainbow at 28.37 pounds. They say it was 32 inches long with an amazing girth of 28.5 inches.

Idaho Fish and Game staffers tested the scale the anglers used, and found it to be relatively accurate, but in order to qualify for a place in Idaho’s record books, a fish must be weighed on a certified scale.

Fish and Game officials say they see photos of giant rainbows landed on steelhead streams from time to time, and anecdotal information suggests these fish are caught more often than some might think.

Once a rainbow trout reaches 20 inches in waters that might contain wild steelhead, it receives protection that rainbows in other waters don’t share. Since 2010, all trout in the Clearwater and North Fork Clearwater were excluded from harvest to protect adult and juvenile steelhead.

Even though this fish was likely stocked as a sterile 10-inch rainbow trout intended for harvest around seven years ago, it has received the same protection as wild rainbows in catch-and-release only waters like the upper Henry’s Fork. If not for that protection, it is unlikely those fish would survive long enough to attain that size.

The fish also had the advantage of living below a dam, giving it access to some pretty easy food coming out of the Dworshak’s turbines.

Regardless of whether this fish could or should have made it into Idaho’s record books, here's the best news: 

  • Somebody caught it and got a photo record of the catch.
  • Now it's back in the river to make the day for another angler.

River changes could spur Clearwater steelheading

FISHING — Clarkston-based fishing guide Toby Wyatt has this professional insight on what steelhead anglers might expect, possibly as soon as this weekend:

Despite a very strong run of B run Steelhead due to low burn stained ( runoff from fire's) water the Clearwater has been mediocre, mostly single digit days.  Recent rains have brought cubic foot per second to over 10,000 - 3000 to 5000 is normal the river is chocolate milk the burn stain is gone. 
What happens next the fish swim into the river in MASS I am not just saying this to book trips it can and most likely will happen for instance the last time we had this same scenario when the river cleared I had a career day 47 fish landed. 
2 fish limit no size restrictions
Stop Wishing go fishing

11.8-pound record coho caught in Clearwater

FISHING —  Idaho Falls angler Steve Micek landed an 11.8-pound coho from the Clearwater River on Sunday, Nov. 9, to set an Idaho state record for ocean-run coho salmon.

The catch tops the record set last month as Idaho's first designated coho season kicked off in the Clearwater. Both record fish were caught by anglers casting spoons.

Here's the scoop on the new record from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

An Idaho Falls man caught an 11.8-pound coho that is a pending state record on his last cast into the Clearwater River this weekend.

If verified by record keepers at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Steve Micek will end the short reign of Moscow’s Ethan Crawford as Idaho’s coho king.

Micek landed the fish while casting a KO Wobbler Spoon for steelhead Sunday near Orofino. He was fishing with his son, Greg Micek, who saw an article last month about Crawford’s 9.4-pound coho, which set a record in the opening weekend of Idaho’s first-ever sport fishing season for coho. The younger Micek speculated they might have a shot at the record if they got into coho.

“My response was, ‘Yeah right,’ ” Steve Micek said.

They did find some coho, but the fish were in poor shape.

“Most of the ones we saw were pretty well beat up,” he said. “They had been spawning heavily. The tails were damaged, the sides were damaged, but this fish was really clean, like it just arrived,” he said.

The father-son fishing team landed a few female cohos and had good luck with steelhead during their weekend trip to the Clearwater. Late Sunday morning, they decided to quit for the day and head for home rather than wait for the afternoon bite.

“I said I was going to take a few more casts and, on the second cast, I hooked this fish,” he said.

The coho hit hard and pulled strong, but didn’t fight for long.

“I wish I could say it hard-boiled me across the river, but it didn’t,”

Steve Micek said.

It was the first male they landed and required a quick consult with the World Wide Web to verify it was indeed a coho.

“There are so many chinook in the water you have to be really careful,” he said.

 From there, he had the fish measured at the department’s check station and then headed to Harvest Foods to have it weighed on a certified scale. He then had the species verified by Conservation Officer John McClain.

Micek is in the process of filling out the record application and plans to mail the package to Boise. If everything is in order there, he will hold the state record.

Idaho opened the Clearwater River to coho fishing Oct. 17, following a surprisingly large return of the fish declared functionally extinct from the Snake River basin in 1985. The Nez Perce Tribe started a coho recovery program in 1995, using eggs from coho that return to tributaries of the lower Columbia River. After making steady progress, the run hit new highs this fall. Through Monday, more than 17,800 coho were counted crossing Lower Granite Dam. Anglers have caught about 80 coho since the start of the season, which runs through Sunday.

Coho adding a new look to coolers of Idaho anglers

FISHING — Yes, I know that some of the coho Idaho anglers are catching hundreds of miles from the ocean in the Clearwater River are dark and off their prime.

But some of the salmon are bright and very good for eating, and opportunity not to miss in this year of record coho returns. 

The photo above shows a nice coho that stands out in a crowd of steelhead on Rick Itami's boat.  It's a sight popping up in coolers along the river since the state's first dedicated coho fishing season opened Oct. 17.

Here's Itami's report:

Thanks to funding from BPA, the Nez Perce Tribe has re-established a coho run in the Clearwater River to the point that this year for the first time, the IDF&G opened a sports fishing season that allows 2 fish per day and 6 in possession.  To top it off, you can keep wild or hatchery fish.  I didn't bother to target coho because the counts over Lower Granite never got above a few hundred per day which seemingly would not make it worthwhile to go after them.  But early this morning, I was trolling lighted lures for steelhead and was reeling in my line so that I could put away my trolling gear and try bobber fishing.  The fast-moving plug caught the attention of this beautiful female coho and she grabbed it just before I got it to the boat.  As you can see it is nice and bright and the flesh is deep red.  It's fillets are now headed to my new smoker along with the steelhead I caught.

See a report on an angler (who's also a fisheries biologist) who caught the first official state record coho in the new Clearwater season casting a spoon.

A record run (since 1938) of adult coho crossed Bonneville Dam and headed up the Columbia and Snake River systems this year and jacks are the 4th highest since at least 1980. 

  • Through Oct. 31, a total of 262,831 adult and 14,577 jack coho had been counted at Bonneville Dam. 
  • The previous record was 259,533 adults in 2001. 
  • The record for jacks is 22,204 fish in 1986. 

Coho were declared functionally extinct from the Snake River basin in the 1980s. But the run had tanked decades earlier. In 1995, the Nez Perce Tribe began an effort to re-establish the run using eggs and juveniles from surplus stock at hatcheries in the lower Columbia River basin.

The tribe’s fisheries division slowly increased the returns of the fish.

Here's more information from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

Over the past handful of years, enough adult coho returned from the ocean that the tribe was able to rely on them to spawn the next generation and did not need to supplement juvenile releases with the offspring of coho that returned to the lower Columbia. Tribal fisheries officials expected returns would improve once the transition was made to a localized brood stock. But they were not expecting the huge leap the run made this fall.

During the previous five years, an average of 3,145 coho returned at least as far as Lower Granite Dam. This year more than 17,100 coho have been counted at the dam.

Coho in spotlight; steelhead providing action

FISHING — The first coho fishing season on Idaho's Clearwater River has been capturing a lot of attention this weeke, but fishing guides correctly point out that steelheading — the bread and butter of late fall fishing in the Snake and Clearwater rivers — is doing just fine.

Here's the latest report from Toby Wyatt of Reel Time Fishing based out of Clarkston:

The Clearwater has been kicking out a lot of nice big B-run fish ranging anywhere from 12 to 18 pounds. This time of year these fish are hot and make some line screaming runs and acrobatic leaps. Dam counts are looking excellent for a great season. An email from Joe DuPont, IDF&G Clearwater Fishery Manager states that as of  10/7/14, over 9,000 hatchery Steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (based on detected PIT tags) that are destined for the Clearwater River.  This is about triple of what we saw last year at this same time and 30% more than we saw 2 years ago.

One of the exciting things about the run this year is the vast majority of them are the larger 2-ocean fish unlike last year when many were the smaller 1-ocean fish.  To date, over 25,000 Clearwater River bound hatchery Steelhead have passed over Bonneville Dam, so there are still a lot on their way.  This means there will be no need to for emergency rules like we implemented last year to protect brood stock. The limit on the Clearwater for steelhead is 2 per day with no size restrictions.

Another exciting development on the Clearwater is that with combined efforts from the Nez Perce Tribe and IDF&G, we are allowed to catch and harvest Coho Salmon. This is the first time in the history of the State of Idaho where sportsmen are able to harvest Coho. The limit is 2 per day and the season is open until November 16th, 2014. Our boats have been landing a few Coho’s a day while targeting Steelhead, which is a nice added bonus to the day.

Fishing should continue to pick up from here on out.


Idaho record coho caught on Clearwater

FISHING — Idaho's first specific coho fishing season opened Friday on the Clearwater River and before the weekend was over, the state had a new record for coho salmon.

Ethan Crawford caught a 9.4-pound coho in the Clearwater and had it officially weighed, according to Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department Clearwater Region fishery manager.

Crawford, 32, of Moscow, is a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist. He's also worked for Idaho Fish and Game.

"Seeing this is basically the first fishery we have had on ocean going coho, it was not surprising to me to see the old record fall which was caught out of Cascade Reservoir (6 pounds) in 1992," DuPont said. The previous records was a fish the spent its life in freshwater.

"I can tell you that there are many more out there that are even bigger," he said, noting that a lot of fish in the 10-pound range are moving up the river.

Anglers, many of them steelheaders, were bonking the coho and filleting them for the dinner table this weekend without even thinking about record books, DuPont said. Both clipped and unclipped coho can be kept during the fishery that runs through Nov. 16.

Be sure you know how to ID a coho while fishing the Clearwater.

If you catch a fish that you believe could be a new record, see this link for directions on how to get your fish verified:

The Snake River run of coho was declared extinct in 1985. But the Nez Perce tribe began a restoration effort in the Clearwater River starting in 1995. The run gradually improved before taking a giant leap forward this fall with the return of more than 15,000 adults.


Salmon ID chart helps Clearwater anglers identify catch

FISHING — Idaho's first specific coho fishing season opens today on the Clearwater River.

You can keep coho regardless of whether their adipose fins are clipped or unclipped in the mainstem or designated sections of the Middle Fork and North Fork below Dworshak Dam.

But since fall chinook is closed to harvest and unmarked steelhead must be released, anglers must be clear on identifying coho.

This chart should help.

An Idaho first: Coho fishing to open on Clearwater

FISHING — In a milestone for Snake River system salmon fisheries, the state Fish and Game Commission has approved a coho fishing season for the Clearwater River — the first specific coho season to be set in Idaho.

The season for coho with clipped and unclipped adipose fins will run from Friday, Oct. 17, to Nov. 16 on the mainstem and Middle Fork Clearwater River from the mouth upstream to Clear Creek, and on the North Fork Clearwater River downstream from Dworshak Dam.

  • Anglers will be allowed to keep two coho a day. The possession limit will be six, and the season limit will be ten.
  • Coho limits are separate from those for fall chinook.
  • Anglers must have a valid salmon permit to legally harvest coho, and any coho harvested must be recorded on that permit.
  • Any coho processed before transport must have the skin intact, with the adipose fin attached.

The Clearwater River upstream of Memorial Bridge remain closed to fall chinook fishing.

According to a Fish and Game Department release, Idaho coho have adapted to changing river conditions more poorly than Idaho’s other anadromous species, and were technically extinct for decades, before the Nez Perce Tribe began a recovery program using eggs from other locations.

That program has resulted in growing returns, including this year’s run.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 14, nearly 15,000 coho had passed Lower Granite Dam.

“Without the Nez Perce tribe’s efforts, Idaho sport anglers would not be getting this opportunity,” said Anadromous Fisheries Manager Pete Hassemer. 

Coho released from the Nez Perce Tribe’s hatchery program have not had their adipose fins clipped, so the Commission has also approved a temporary change in the rules regarding harvest. Anglers may keep Coho Salmon with an adipose fin during the one month season, and are encouraged to carefully identify any salmon before harvest.

A guide to fish identification in Idaho is printed in our general fishing seasons and rules brochure.  

Fall chinook with adipose fins must still be released unharmed

Coho salmon, also known as "silver salmon," are anadromous fish. That means they are born in freshwater, migrate to saltwater, and return to freshwater to spawn. Adult coho range from 8-12 pounds. They are a bright silver color in the ocean, but turn red when spawning. Upper and lower jaws become "hooked" as Coho approach spawning. Sharp teeth appear on tongue and roof of mouth. Spotting on tail fin is limited to the upper half. Coho have black mouths and white gums.

Three-times more steelhead headed to Clearwater than last year

FISHING — Steelhead anglers have thousands of good reasons to fish the Clearwater River, not the least of which is the opening of the catch-and-keep season upstream of Lewiston that starts on Oct. 15.

Here's a just-posted report from Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston:

As of today (Oct. 7),  more than  9,000 hatchery Steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam  destined for the Clearwater River (based on detected PIT tags).  This is about triple of what we saw last year at this same time and 30% more than we saw 2 years ago. 

It’s not quite what we had in 2010 and 2011 when around 13,000 fish had passed over Lower Granite Dam by this same time, but that is certainly enough to provide some good fishing. 

The numbers of Clearwater River bound fish passing over Lower Granite Dam really picked up the last 5 days, and these fish should start moving from the Snake into the Clearwater anytime now. 

One of the exciting things about the run this year is the vast majority of them are the larger 2-ocean fish unlike last year when many were the smaller 1-ocean fish.  To date, more than 25,000 Clearwater River bound hatchery Steelhead have passed over Bonneville Dam, so there are still a lot on their way.  This means there will be no need to for emergency rules like we implemented last year to protect brood stock. 

Idaho's Steelhead rules can be viewed online.

See this story for more detail on this year's steelhead and fall chinook runs.

So there you have it.  Yet another great outdoor activity to do in October.   Now you just have decide what to do…..Salmon, Steelhead, Sturgeon, Deer, Elk, upland game birds.   October is such a great time in the Clearwater Region.    

Fall chinook hitting at Snake-Clearwater confluence

UPDATED 11:25 with photo of the big steelhead Shawn Barron caught on Clearwater River (inset) shortly after his son, Tyler, caught the big fall chinook (above). That's what I call a good day of fishing!

FISHING — The nice thing about fishing in the lower Clearwater River this time of year is that the fish you catch are either big or bigger.

Steelhead have been attracting anglers to the waters near Lewiston since July, when the fish started trickling over Lower Granite Dam in decent numbers and up the Snake River toward Idaho.To date, more than 22,000 steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (since June 1) and the fish continue to swim over their last Snake River hurdle at the rate of about 1,300 a day.

But now fall chinook are showing in bigger numbers as a forecast record run pushes into the Columbia River system. Indeed, the numbers of fall chinook over Lower Granite is higher than the number of steelhead.

"We are anticipating that the fall chinook salmon returning run to Idaho will be the second largest we have seen in quite some time last year was the largest," said Joe DuPont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

"We are expecting around 50,000 adults to pass over Lower Granite Dam and what is even more exciting is this year the majority of the adult fish are three-ocean fish that typically range from 18-22 pounds. 

"On average, more than 2,000 adult chinook a day have been passing over Lower Granite Dam for the past week.  Soon we should exceed 3,000 adult chinook a day.  Catch rates for Chinook have been quite slow, but they should pick up with all these fish starting to move in."

Steelhead fishing also has been fairly slow, he said, noting that surveys pegged success at 20 hours per fish in the Snake River and Clearwater River downstream of Memorial Bridge where fish can be harvested. 

But expect these catch rates to improve as more fish move into Idaho. 

"Steelhead fishing in the catch-and-release area of the Clearwater River (upstream of Memorial Bridge) has been fairly good with catch rates around 5 to 6 hours a fish," DuPont said. 

"One interesting this about this year’s A run is that over half the fish that have passed over Lower Granite Dam are two-ocean fish running 9-13 pounds," he said. The A run is the term used for the earlier arriving steelhead that are typically dominated by one-ocean fish and are mainly destined for the Salmon and Grande Ronde rivers and up the Snake to Hells Canyon Dam.

"So, although the catch rates haven’t been all that great, people have been pleased with the size of the fish they are catching.  Now that the B run (later arriving and generally larger two-ocean steelhead bound mostly for the Clearwater River Basin) is just starting to reach Idaho, the size of the fish should just get bigger.

Fall chinook anglers in Idaho often wonder why "wild" fish are protected when they seem to catch more "unclipped" salmon than "clipped" salmon produced at hatcheries. DuPont explains:

  • Only about 30% of the chinook passing over Lower Granite Dam are fin-clipped.  That is because a lot of wild fish are returning and because around half the hatchery fall chinook released in Idaho are clipped. This was done to help build the run when numbers were low.   Thus, anglers will have to catch around four unmarked fish for every clipped fish that can be harvested. 

Another question commonly asked: “Why can't anglers harvest fall chinook upstream of Memorial Bridge?”   DuPont explains:

  • First, only about 25 percent  of the hatchery fish released into the Clearwater River are clipped. Thus, when you mix in the wild fish only about 15 percent of the fish are clipped.  That doesn’t leave a lot of fish to be harvested.  This clip rate is set until 2017.  Discussion will occur to decide what the new clip rate will be starting in 2018.
  • Second, the Clearwater River is a very popular place to catch-and-release steelhead, and has been for many years.  Anglers come from all over the nation to fish this unique fishery.  Opening a fall chinook season at the same time as this catch-and-release steelhead season occurs would cause significant changes in the dynamics of this fishery (more anglers and more boats).  Many steelhead anglers say they are not in support of this.
  • Finally, the Nez Perce Tribe is largely responsible for rebuilding the fall chinook run in Idaho.  Because most of the Clearwater River is in the Nez Perce Tribal Reservation, we need to be considerate of their concerns and interests before moving forward with a fishery that targets fall chinook in this area.  We will have discussions with the Tribe about this when we feel the time is appropriate. 

Clearwater spring chinook fishing ends Sunday

FISHING — Fishing for chinook salmon in the Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater and Lochsa rivers will be closed at the end of fishing hours on Sunday (June 29).

This closure marks the end of the spring chinook fishery in the Clearwater Drainage. Since the season opened on April 26, anglers harvested more than 3,700 adult Chinook and more than 1,000 jack Chinook in the Clearwater drainage during the 2014 spring season.

  • Little Salmon River will remain open for chinook salmon fishing at least through Friday (June 27). While many anglers are catching chinook on the Little Salmon, fishery managers believe the share set aside for sport anglers has not been completely harvested yet. Those managers will meet later this week to look at the most up to date numbers before deciding if the fishery can continue beyond Friday June 27.

Idaho spring chinook fishing winding down

UPDATED 1:55 p.m. with announcement of Sunday closings by Idaho fish and Game:



FISHING — Idaho’s spring chinook salmon fisheries on the lower Salmon River and the Clearwater River basins are almost history for 2014.

Idaho Fish and Game has just issued this announcement:

As harvest quotas of adult Chinook salmon will soon be achieved throughout the Clearwater drainage, harvest of adult Chinook in the entire Clearwater (including the Middle Fork, South Fork and Lochsa) will end on Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 9:15 Pacific Daylight Time.

Harvest of all Chinook salmon; including jacks, will be off-limits in the main stem Clearwater and the North Fork Clearwater after Sunday June 22. Closing these sections to all salmon fishing will eliminate mortalities among adult salmon hooked and released by anglers fishing for jack salmon.

Harvest of jack salmon (those under 24 inches) will continue to be allowed on the Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater and Lochsa River until further notice. Anglers may harvest up to 4 adipose-clipped Chinook salmon under 24 inches per day on those rivers. Any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released. Anglers harvesting four jacks in a day or having 12 jacks in possession must discontinue fishing.

On the Salmon River:

"Fishing for both adult and jack spring chinook will close on two sections of the lower Salmon River at 9:15 p.m. Thursday," reports Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. "The river will close to salmon fishing between Rice Creek and Time Zone bridges and from the mouth of Short’s Creek to the boat ramp at Vinegar Creek."

Fisheries managers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are closing the two stretches to make sure anglers don’t catch too many salmon destined for the upper Salmon River.

The river will remain open to chinook fishing between Time Zone Bridge and the mouth of Short’s Creek, often referred to as the Park Hole. The Little Salmon River will also remain open.

But fishing on those two stretches could close in the next few weeks. Last week, anglers caught nearly 1,400 adult chinook from the lower Salmon River and more than 1,500 from the Little Salmon River. So far this year, anglers have caught about 4,300 adult chinook from the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, leaving about 2,500 on the state’s share of the Rapid River run, which is fewer than were caught last week.

"If harvest last week is any indication of what is going to happen this week, that should put us pretty close to our harvest share," said Don Whitney, a fisheries biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

Fish managers decided to close the Clearwater stretches after analyzing catch data. Anglers caught 419 adult chinook from the South Fork of the Clearwater, Middle Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers last week.

Another Clearwater stretch closing to spring chinook

FISHING — At the end of fishing hours on Thursday June 12, the fishing harvest season will close for adult Chinook Salmon (24 inches or longer) on the Clearwater River between the Orofino Bridge and the South Fork Clearwater.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department says the catch quota for the stretch has been met. 

Starting on Friday, June 13, only the harvest of adipose clipped Jacks (salmon less than 24 inches)  will be allowed on the Clearwater River downstream from the South Fork Clearwater River. Anglers may keep up to four adipose clipped jacks per day. Any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released in this river section. 

Idaho closing chinook season on portions of Clearwater

FISHING — The recent reports of great spring chinook fishing on Idaho's Clearwater River were a prophesy that some quota's would soon be reached.  Time has come. Here's a closure notice just released:
At the end of fishing hours on Friday, June 6, 2014, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will implement a closure to the harvest of adult Chinook Salmon (24 inches or greater) on the Clearwater River from Cherrylane Bridge upstream to Orofino Bridge and in the North Fork Clearwater River.  
This closure is being implemented because the harvest quota for adult Chinook Salmon has been met in these sections of river.  Harvest quotas for adult Chinook Salmon in different reaches within the Clearwater River drainage were developed using input from the public to help insure all communities in the watershed have opportunities to harvest salmon.
Starting on Saturday June 7, 2014, only the harvest of adipose clipped Jacks (salmon less than 24 inches)  with a daily limit of four (4) will be allowed downstream of Orofino Bridge and in the North Fork Clearwater River. 
Chinook Salmon rules in river reaches upstream of the Orofino Bridge will remain unchanged until further notice.

Clearwater river hot for spring chinook fishing

FISHING — "Fishing was exceptional in the Clearwater River drainage last week with catch rates less than 10 hrs/fish in many places and averaging 14 hrs/fish for the entire basin," says Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

"Based on conversations with our creel personnel, it looks like the fishing is only improving this week," he said in an email a few minutes ago. 

"We plan to check our harvest numbers Thursday (6/5/14) to evaluate if we need to make any closures.  If harvest continues to remain high, adult harvest closures could occur in river Section 2 (main Clearwater from Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge) and Section 3 (North Fork) as soon as the end of fishing on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or possibly later."  

A notice will be released on Thursday, he said.

"The other river reaches will remain open to adult harvest through the weekend and we will evaluate the data on Monday to determine how to proceed."    

Fish on! for Snake River spring chinook anglers

FISHING —  Now's the time to head to the Snake River for spring chinook.

Counts of chinook passing lower Snake River dams are on the rise and water conditions are more than respectable, according to a Lewiston Tribune update story by Eric Barker.

“Flows are also looking good, so those fish should spread upriver fast,"  Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said in my earlier blog postExpect the fishing to really pick up from here on out,” 

Through Thursday, 35,894 spring chinook adults had passed over Ice Harbor Dam, the first on the Snake, and the fish are marching upstream:

  • 28,824 over Lower Monumental Dam.
  • 16,632 over Little Goose Dam.
  • 13,383 over Lower Granite Dam, the last dam the fish negotiate before heading up the Snake River into Idaho bound for the Clearwater and Salmon rivers.

Read on for more details from Barker's story:


Idaho should see good spring chinook fishing any day

FISHING — Big numbers of spring chinook are coming and river flows are ideal — that's a recipe for success in Idaho waters, says Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.  

Although only 21 fish were estimated to have been harvested in the Clearwater drainage as of last week, Dupont points to dam counts  indicating that the fishing will pick up — any day.

"Last week we had some exciting times when over a three day period over 40,000 chinook passed over Bonneville Dam," he said.

Since then the counts have dropped back down, but that spike in numbers caused the agency's projected non-tribal harvest share to increase to about 4,000 adult fish in the Clearwater drainage and about 6,3000 adult fish for the Rapid River run — up from earlier projections of 3,400 for the Clearwater drainage and 4,500 for the Rapid River run.   

This share of fish is similar to what Idaho saw in the Clearwater River basin in 2008 and 2009-2012, Dupont said, but last year the harvest share in the Clearwater Basin dropped to only 640 fish. 

"So this will be a marked improvement over that," Dupont said.  "For the Rapid River run, last year the harvest share was 2,100 fish and the year before that  it was  4,500 fish.  As such this year will be an improvement over the previous two years.  All in all, I think we are in store for a very good season.

"Counts over Lower Granite Dam the last couple days were around 1,300 and 3,000 fish which is good.  Flows are also looking good, so those fish should spread upriver fast.  Expect the fishing to really pick up from here on out."

Anglers clamor for a springer season near Clarkston

FISHING — Although fisheries officials aren't making a commitment until run size is confirmed, anglers made it clear Wednesday night that they want to be able to catch spring chinook in the Snake River when they move upstream past Clarkston this year.

Biologists listed to their desires and even pointed out the possibility of a short fishing opportunity in the Grande Ronde River.

Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune was at the meeting.   Read on for his report:

Salmon fishing boats banned from Clearwater’s Big Eddy

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game explains a new rule that will greet Clearwater River chinook salmon anglers this season:

Ask Fish and Game: 2014 Spring Chinook Salmon Rules

Q: I noticed boaters will not be allowed to fish the Big Eddy hole on the Clearwater River for salmon this year. Why are boat anglers being excluded?

A: Spring Chinook salmon seem to congregate in the Big Eddy hole in very large numbers. This makes them especially vulnerable to anglers who are able to target them from boats. Success rates have been so high in this area, that a small number of anglers are able to take a large portion of the quota allowed on the Clearwater. Fishery managers feel that closing this hole to boaters will allow for a longer season which will give all interested anglers more opportunity to participate in the spring Chinook fishery.

Fish-game cops need help with poaching cases

HUNTING/FISHING — Poaching is a live and well in the region's mountains and streams, and state fish and wildlife officers in Washington and Idaho are looking for help making cases.   Two in particular include:

Entiat bucks:  A $2,000 reward is being offered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  for substantial information leading to charges filed against the person(s) involved in poaching trophy class deer.

Two mule deer bucks were shot from Mud Creek Road in the Entiat Valley during the first two weeks of January 2014. The poacher(s) attempted to hide the deer, leaving the antlers and meat to waste (though they likely planned to return later to retrieve the antlers).

  • Contact Officer Oswald, (509) 630.0536, or email eric.oswald@dfw.wa.gov.  All reports will be confidential and the reporting party's identity will be protected.

Clearwater steelhead: On Friday, Feb. 28, poachers left their mark at the Ahsahka boat ramp on the North Fork of the Clearwater River, according to Idaho Fish and Game oficials. 

A call to the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline led an Idaho Fish and Game officer to the scene where six steelhead had been left to waste.  Six female fish were all over the 28 inch length limit and one still had an adipose fin indicating it was most likely a wild fish. All fish had been gutted and thrown alongside the boat ramp near the water’s edge.  The persons reporting the crime said they had been fishing earlier in the day at that same location and the fish were not there.  They returned to go fishing in the afternoon and found the fish that had been left to waste. 

One of the people reporting the crime stated, “Those fish could have feed my family for quite a while…  but instead someone saw it fit to catch and kill illegal fish and then waste the meat.”  Someone knows who did this.  It was likely more than one person.  Without the help of a responsible honest person, these dishonest violators will get away with stealing the wildlife resource that belongs to the people of Idaho.

  • Contact CAP hotline, (800) 632-5999 or Officer Dave Beaver, (208) 791-5118.  Anyone providing information can remain anonymous.  

Hi-tech biologists learning Snake River steelhead migration secrets

FISHING — Matt Corsi, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries researcher based in Lewiston, put together the article above regarding a telemetry study in the Clearwater River drainage in collaboration with the Nez Perce Tribe. 

Click "continue reading" to see the rest of the story.

Dearth of steelhead is opportunity for die-hard anglers

FISHING — If you're one of those steelheaders who's been avoiding the Clearwater River because of this season's poor fish returns, here's a big THANK YOU from the anglers who've been enjoying your absence.

Read on for the Lewiston Tribune story that points out the lack of effort has resulted in some excellent fishing for those who show up to enjoy all the elbow room and unbothered steelhead.

Spokane-area anglers tops in steelhead derby

FISHING — Two Spokane area finished first and third in the unofficial results from the 2013 Kendall Chevrolet Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby that started Nov. 23 and ended today, according to  the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Although results won't be verified until Monday, the 2013 overall winner appears to be Lance Hall of Nine Mile Falls with a steelhead weighing 18.33 pounds. The prize is $2,000.

Jason Peters of Clarkston is in second and Kyle Zipse of Spokane is in third.

Hall also is the skins game winner, set to take home an additional $500 prize.

Continue reading for the complete unofficial results.


Clearwater River steelhead limits reduced as B-run trickles in

FISHING — As predicted when the forecast for B-Run steelhead was downgraded last week, Idaho Fish and Game has reduced bag and possession limits on steelhead harvested in part of the Clearwater River drainage during the fall and spring seasons.

The change takes effect when the fall steelhead harvest season opens Tuesday (Oct.15) in the Clearwater River drainage.

The limits for the fall season and the spring 2014 season are one fish per day and two in possession. In addition, in the North Fork Clearwater River and the mainstem Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino bridge only steelhead 28 inches or less in total length may be kept.

Read on for more details.

Steelhead B-run returns downgraded again

FISHING — Columbia-Snake fisheries managers have just issued a forecast update the downgrades the prediction — again — for B-run steelhead — the large, coveted steelhead stocks that head up the Snake River each year bound primarily for the Clearwater and Salmon Rivers.

Here's the lastest in a blog post from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

The group of fisheries biologists from state, tribal and federal agencies met today and calculated only 10,700 B-run steelhead, including 2,500 wild fish, will return to the Columbia River, as measured at Bonneville Dam.

On average, about 71 percent of the B-run fish counted at Bonneville Dam, make it all the way to Lower Granite Dam. Based on that conversion rate, the predicted return above Granite is about 7,600, including 1,775 wild fish.

The preseason forecast called for a return of 31,600 B-run steelhead to Bonneville Dam and 22,400 to Lower Granite.

Last week, Idaho Fish and Game officials said they would consider lowering bag limits on hatchery steelhead when the Clearwater River opens to catch-and-keep fishing Oct. 15.