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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.    

Life’s good! Wet wading, fly casting for Ronde steelhead

FLY FISHING — I've heard some people say the water's still too warm in the Grande Ronde River to attract steelhead upstream from the Snake.

Fly fishing guide Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop is putting that myth to bed this week, as you can see in the photo above.

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. 

Wild Steelhead documentary coming to Spokane Sept. 12

FISHING — A documentary film promoting efforts to boost wild steelhead will be shown in Spokane on Sept. 12 sponsored by The Wild Steelhead Coalition and Patagonia.

Wild Reverence: The Plight of the American Wild Steelhead chronicles one of the most sought after fish on the planet and the severe decline of wild populations.

A question and answer session with Shane Anderson, the filmmaker, will follow the screening.

"Two years in the making, this feature film chronicles the state of steelhead across their entire historic west coast range," says Spokane organizer Josh Mills.

The 75-minute film will start at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St.

Tickets, $10, are available in advance at ticketriver.com or at the door.

Other non-profit groups will have booths at the event, Mills said.

Spokane is the first stop for the film in a seven-city tour that will include Bozeman on Sept. 16, Boise on Sept 17, Reno on Sept. 18, Portland on Sept. 28 and Seattle on Oct. 2.

Wild Reverence"The Plight of the American Wild Steelhead" Film Trailer from North Fork Studios on Vimeo.

Snake River salmon fishing to open seven days a week

FISHING — Starting Saturday, Aug. 30, anglers will be able to catch and keep hatchery fall chinook salmon seven days a week on the Snake River.

Predicting another strong return of upriver bright chinook salmon this year, state fishery managers have expanded the daily catch limit to include six adult hatchery chinook, plus six hatchery jack chinook under 24 inches in length.

Anglers may also catch and keep up to three hatchery steelhead on the Snake River, but must stop fishing for the day – for both hatchery chinook and steelhead – once they have taken their three-fish steelhead limit.

Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released, along with any chinook salmon under 12 inches.

“This is a great opportunity for anglers to catch hatchery chinook salmon during the traditionally productive Snake River steelhead fishery,” said John Whalen, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

New fishing rules set to take effect Sept. 1 on the Tucannon River will reduce the daily catch limit for hatchery steelhead to two fish to provide additional protection for wild steelhead. The new rules for steelhead and other gamefish also:

  • Require anglers to use barbless hooks and keep any hatchery steelhead they catch.
  • Close the fishery upstream from Marengo at Turner Road Bridge.
  • Establish new fishing boundaries at the mouth of the Tucannon.

Details of the Tucannon River fishery are posted on WDFW’s website at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

Whalen said the upcoming fall chinook fishery on the Snake River is expected to extend through Oct. 31, while the season for hatchery steelhead and other gamefish will run through Feb. 28.

Of the 919,000 upper river brights projected to enter the Columbia River this year, 61, 000 are wild fall chinook bound for the Snake River. Retention of hatchery chinook won’t increase impacts to fish protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, so long as anglers release wild chinook as required, Whalen said. 

“We urge anglers to identify their catch before they remove it from the water,” he said. “State law prohibits removing chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless they are retained as part of the daily catch limit.”

The fishery will extend from waters of the Columbia River from the railroad bridge between Burbank and Kennewick upstream approximately 2.1 miles to the first power line crossing upstream of the navigation light on the point of Sacajawea State Park and on the Snake River from the Columbia River confluence to the Oregon State line (approximately 7 miles upstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde River).

Watch for updates on the WDFW website.

Grande Ronde spring chinook season opens Friday; first in 40 years

FISHING – Starting Friday (June 27), the lower Grande Ronde River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon for the first time in 40 years.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced that the river, from the Highway 129 Bridge upstream approximately 12 miles to the farthest upstream Oregon/Washington boundary line, will be open for spring chinook fishing through Monday (June 30).

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are testing the feasibility of a spring chinook fishery in the lower Grande Ronde River to increase the harvest of hatchery fish destined for the Lostine River in Oregon, said John Whalen, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) eastern region fish program manager. 

The Grande Ronde River fishery is co-managed by Washington and Oregon, where a similar chinook season will open concurrently.

“This brief, four-day fishery will give us some indication of angler participation and the catch rates we would see with a fishery in the lower river,” Whalen said. 

The season was rushed into play a as reserachers monitoring PIT-tagged fish movements upstream said the targeted fish are getting there and now’s the time, Whalen said.

Some specific regulations include:

  • Anglers will have a daily catch limit of seven hatchery chinook salmon (adipose fin-clipped), only two of which can be adult chinook. Anglers must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult hatchery chinook salmon.
  • Anglers must use single point barbless hooks no larger than 5/8 inch from point to shank.
  • Night fishing is prohibited.
  • Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily catch limit.

Whalen said fishery managers were able to provide the brief opportunity after in-season projections indicated good returns of spring chinook salmon to the upper Grande Ronde River.

“We’re specifically targeting the Lostine chinook stock, which data shows tends to migrate through the river a month later than other chinook populations,” Whalen said. “By allowing this opportunity now, we can fish for these late-arriving chinook while avoiding the majority of fish from other stocks.”

Special Grande Ronde River spring chinook season coming

FISHING —  A new four-day spring chinook section on a stretch of the Grande Ronde River is likely to be opened starting Friday.

The official announcement and details are likely to be released Wednesday morning.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife didn't get all the permits in order today… but stay tuned. This is a new deal for anglers!

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.

Wenatchee spring chinook season first in 20 years

FISHING — Starting Friday (June 6), the Wenatchee River will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon for the first time in nearly two decades, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced.

With almost 10,000 hatchery chinook expected to return to the river this year, WDFW is opening two sections of the river:

  • From the Washington State Parks foot bridge at Confluence Park (just upstream from the confluence with the Columbia River) to 400 feet below Dryden Dam.
  • From the confluence with Peshastin Creek to the downstream side of the confluence with the Icicle River and from that point to a marker on the opposite shore.

The fishery will be open seven days a week in both areas until further notice.

Anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery spring chinook measuring at least 12 inches long and marked with a clipped adipose fin. Under statewide regulations, anglers may retain only one daily limit of salmon, regardless of how many waters they fish.

All wild chinook must immediately be released back into the water unharmed.

Jeff Korth, regional WDFW fishery manager, said this year’s fishery was made possible under a new permit issued by NOAA-Fisheries that allows the department to conduct mark-selective fisheries to reduce the number of hatchery fish on the spawning grounds.

“We are pleased that we’re able to provide this fishery, which will reduce excess hatchery fish while increasing fishing opportunities in the area,” Korth said. “We’ve done this successfully in other watersheds and now we’re bringing it to the Wenatchee River.”

Korth noted that WDFW will closely monitor the fishery and enforce fishing rules to ensure protection of wild chinook, bull trout and any steelhead that may be incidentally caught and released.

In addition to the mark-selective rules in effect for the fishery, anglers are required to:

  • Retain any legal hatchery spring chinook they catch until they reach their daily limit, then stop fishing for spring chinook.
  • Release any spring chinook with one or more round holes punched in the tail fin. These fish are vital to ongoing studies in the upper Wenatchee River Basin.
  • Observe selective gear rules in effect on the Wenatchee River wherever chinook seasons are open. No gear restrictions are in effect on the Icicle River, and anglers may use bait on both rivers.
  • Heed the prohibition of internal combustion motorized vessels and observe night closures on the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.

To participate in this fishery, anglers must possess a valid 2014-15 fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. 

Because the fishery is open until further notice, anglers should check WDFW’s Fishing Rule Change website.

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."    

Spring chinook fishing resumes on Snake

FISHING — Two sections of the Snake River (below Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite Dam) reopened to fishing for spring chinook on Sunday, June 1, while two other sections of the river (below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston) will reopen Thursday, June 5.

The sections of the river below Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite Dam are open Sunday through Tuesday each week. The river below Little Goose Dam and in the Clarkston area will be open Thursday through Saturday each week.

All four sections will be open on their weekly schedule until further notice.

Glen Mendel, district fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said fishery managers were able to reopen the fishery after transferring a portion of the upriver spring chinook allocation to the Snake River from the ongoing fishery in the lower Columbia River.

“With more than 600 fish now available for the Snake River fishery, we may be able to sustain fishing for the next several weeks,” said Mendel.

Read on for details:

Can Sprague Lake steelhead windfall result in trout?

FISHING — We'll know by fall if the attempt to salvage court-settlement-doomed steelhead smolts by stocking them in Sprague Lake will be good for fishermen — or whether the 369,000 million smolts being stocked will simply be dying and feeding bass, gulls, cormorants and pelicans.

It's a million-dollar question. Keep your fingers crossed.

Spring chinook fishing poised to close on Snake

FISHING – Spring chinook salmon fisheries on two sections of the Snake River will close for the season after four more days of fishing in each area, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Fishing for spring chinook in the Clarkston area continues today (May 22) and will close an hour past sunset on Sunday (May 25).

Below Lower Granite Dam, fishing for spring chinook will be open from Saturday (May 24) until an hour past sunset on Tuesday (May 27).

By then, the catch of spring chinook salmon is expected to reach the harvest allocation limit for the Snake River based on monitored harvest and the most recent estimate of the run size, said John Whalen, WDFW’s eastern region fish program manager.

“These closures will effectively mark the end of the fishing season for spring chinook on the Snake River,” Whalen said.

The section of the river set to close an hour past sunset May 25 is:

  • Clarkston area: Snake River from the downstream edge of the large power lines crossing the Snake River (just upstream from West Evans Road on the south shore) upstream about 3.5 miles to the Washington state line. (The state line extends from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).

The section of the river set to close an hour past sunset May 27 is:

  • Below Lower Granite Dam: Snake River from the Ilia Boat Launch on the south across to the mouth of Almota Creek upstream about four miles to the restricted fishing area below Lower Granite Dam.

Two other areas of the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam and Little Goose Dam closed for spring chinook fishing May 14.

When the fishery is open, anglers have a daily catch limit of one hatchery adult chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – and five hatchery jacks measuring less than 24 inches.

Barbless hooks are required, and anglers must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult chinook salmon. All chinook with an adipose fin, and all steelhead, must immediately be released unharmed.

For more details, check the rule change on WDFW’s website

Lower Columbia spring chinook fishing season extended

FISHING — Starting Thursday, May 15, anglers will have another full month to catch hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon and steelhead on the lower Columbia River under an agreement reached today by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.

Fish managers have more confidence in the run after getting new projections this week. Changes, if any, in quotas for the Snake River portion of the run have not been announced,  yet.

Under the agreement for the lower Columbia, anglers can catch and keep one marked, hatchery chinook salmon daily through June 15 as part of their catch limit from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upriver to Bonneville Dam.

In all, they may retain up to two adult salmon or steelhead – or one of each – but no more than one adult chinook salmon per day. Anglers must release all sockeye salmon and any wild salmon or wild steelhead, which can be identified by an intact adipose fin.

According to an updated run projection, 224,000 upriver spring chinook will return to the Columbia River this year, said Ron Roler, a fishery manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The pre-season projection anticipated a return of 227,000 upriver fish.

The new projection reflects greater confidence in the run since last week, when fishery managers projected a minimum return of 185,000 upriver fish this year, Roler said.

“We’ve taken a conservative approach to the season so far, but the count of spring chinook past Bonneville Dam indicates our pre-season projection was on target,” he said. “Under this extension, anglers should be able to keep fishing in the lower river right up to the start of the summer chinook season June 16.”

Anglers fishing the Columbia River below the dam caught 10,084 upriver spring chinook through May 10, when the previous two-day extension ended. The extension through mid-June is projected to boost the annual catch in those waters by 3,864, Roler said.

  • For more information about the fishing extension approved today, see the Fishing Rule Notice on WDFW’s website.

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."

Spring chinook fishing to reopen on lower Columbia

UPDATED 5:20 p.m. with more information from WDFW.

FISHING — Spring chinook will reopen Friday, May 9, through Saturday, May 10, on the Lower Columbia River from the Tongue Point/Rocky Point line upstream to Rooster Rock, plus bank-angling only from Rooster Rock to Bonneville Dam. Shad fishing also will be open.

Spring chinook surged into the Columbia and over Bonneville Dam last week with one daily count topping 17,000 fish, giving fish managers the go-ahead for more lower Columbia fishing. 

  • Bonneville Dam passage through May 5 totals 119,758 adult chinook.  Based on the 10-year average the 50% passage date is May 7, ranging from April 27 to May 12.  

​Current Columbia River regulations for salmon, steelhead, shad and sturgeon can be found at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sport Fishing Regulation Update page.

Click "continued reading" for more details from WDFW media releases.

Spring chinook bite coming to the Snake

FISHING — With a big pulse of spring chinook headed upstream past Bonneville Dam, fish managers are expecting good things for upstream fishermen.

Weather was generally poor through the weekend and fishing has been slow in the Snake River since the season opened last week, with the fish being caught near Ice Harbor (first dam the hit in the Snake) and Little Goose dams.  But Glen Mendel, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist for the Snake, said it's time to get your salmon gear ready:

We have a very large pulse of fish passing Bonneville Dam (over 17,000 on one day on April 30) headed upstream, and we already have generally more than 1,000 per day passing Ice Harbor Dam.  Counts at Little Goose are nearly 1,000 per day, and there are over 2,000 fish stacked up so far between Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams. 

Lower Granite counts have been over 200 per day for a few days.  The wind and rain are over for now, river flow levels are moderate, and fish numbers are good and getting better, so fishing conditions are looking good for the next several days or more.

State settles hatchery steelhead lawsuit

FISHING – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reached an agreement with the Wild Fish Conservancy today that stops the lawsuit over the state's Puget Sound hatchery programs for 2½ years and permits the release of hatchery steelhead this spring into the Skykomish River. 

No early winter steelhead will be released into other Puget Sound rivers in 2014.

The agreement is reflected in a federal court consent decree signed by WDFW Director Phil Anderson and Conservancy Executive Director Kurt Beardslee. The decree is designed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Conservancy last month in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the agency says in a media release. 

In its March 31 complaint, the Duvall-based non-profit group claimed the department’s Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. All three species are listed as “threatened” under the ESA. 

While acknowledging that certain hatchery practices may pose risks to wild fish productivity and recovery, WDFW officials denied the Conservancy’s claim and said the department has taken numerous steps based on current science to ensure its hatchery operations protect wild steelhead and other listed fish species. 

Read on for more details from the WDFW.

Extra day offered for lower Columbia spring chinook fishing

FISHING — Anglers will have one more day - Saturday (April 19) - to fish for spring chinook salmon on the lower Columbia River prior to an updated assessment of the run size.

The chinook fishery will be open to boat and bank fishing from Buoy 10 upriver to Rooster Rock. Bank fishing will also be allowed from Rooster Rock upriver to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Anglers may retain one hatchery chinook salmon as part of their daily catch limit. Barbless hooks are required, and any salmon or steelhead not visibly marked as a hatchery fish by a clipped adipose fin must be released.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon approved the one-day extension after a week in which anglers caught 6,500 upriver spring chinook, boosting the total catch for the season in the lower Columbia River to 7,880 upriver fish

One more day of fishing is expected to bring the catch levels up to 95 percent of the initial harvest guideline of 10,157 fish, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

"Catch levels tend to skyrocket at this time of the year," Roler said. "As in years past, fishing started out slow this season, but you wouldn't know that by what we're seeing out there right now."

Prior to the start of this year's fishing season, fishery managers estimated that approximately 227,000 upriver spring chinook salmon would return to the Columbia River this year.

Anglers may get additional opportunities to catch spring chinook salmon later this spring, depending on how that estimate compares to the updated forecast planned in the next few weeks, Roler said.

"If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look at providing additional days of fishing on the river later this spring," he said.

The extended fishing season in the lower Columbia River does not affect the spring chinook season above Bonneville Dam, currently open through May 9 under regulations described on WDFW's website.

Ringold bank fishing restriction to start for steelheaders

FISHING — Fishing for steelhead has been pretty darn good in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia recently.  Here's a report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist.  Note the change that starts April 1:

Steelhead fishing picked up in March in the Hanford Reach after a slow winter.  Anglers caught 512 steelhead and retained 398 hatchery steelhead.  Anglers donated 111 hatchery steelhead to WDFW to support the Ringold Springs and Wells Hatcheries Programs.  Anglers averaged 13 hours per steelhead from the bank and just over 6 hours per steelhead by boat.

Effective April 1-April 15, this fishery will only be open for bank angling at the WDFW Ringold Access area.

For the fishery, October-March, 1,197 steelhead have been caught and 723 hatchery steelhead harvested. 

Steelheaders protest Skagit spring fishing closure

FISHING — A row of anglers cast their lines into the Skagit River at Rockport on Saturday to protest regulations that prevent them from catching steelhead.  

Since no hooks were involved, no fish were caught in protest — an no laws were broken.  
 
The Skagit Valley Herald reports the group also carried signs that said, “Catch and release is not a crime” and “Let the people fish.”  
The anglers want the state to allow the return of a spring catch-and-release season. They say it would not hurt the recovery of wild winter steelhead.  
 
The Skagit and Sauk rivers have been closed to wild steelhead fishing in the late winter and early spring season since 2010. Anglers can fish in December and January when the hatchery fish come through, but many prefer the wild steelhead for their aggressiveness.  

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:

Steelheading to close on upper Columbia

FISHING — Steelhead fishing will close on Monday, March 31, on the Columbia River and tributaries above Rock Island Dam, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Most steelhead will be spawning beginning in April, the agency said in a release, and the closure is governed by federal endangered species agreements. The closure officially begins one hour after sunset on March 31.

Areas closed to steelhead fishing include:

  • Mainstem Columbia River:  From Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam.
  • Wenatchee River:  From the mouth to 400 feet below Tumwater Dam, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam.
  • Methow River:  From the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.
  • Okanogan River:  From the mouth to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville.
  • Similkameen River:  From the mouth to 400 feet below Enloe Dam.

28-inch steelhead restriction dropped on Clearwater

FISHING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has voted to rescind the 28-inch length restriction on the Clearwater River.

This rule change became effective at 10 a.m. today (March 20, 2014).  As such, the steelhead rules for the entire Clearwater River basin (where open) are now:

  • A daily limit of 1 steelhead
  • A possession limit of 2 steelhead
  • No length restriction are in effect in any of the open waters.
  • Refer to the Steelhead rules for specific area closures and restriction to steelhead fishing (these have not changed).

According to Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager in Lewiston, the Commission last fall approved a restriction on the length of Steelhead (none > 28 inches) that could be harvested in the Clearwater River downstream of Orofino Bridge and in the North Fork Clearwater River. 

"The length restriction was implemented to protect larger 2-ocean fish that are needed for hatchery brood stock," he said. "Run-size updates at that time indicated a very poor return of 2-ocean Steelhead to the Clearwater River.  A reduction in the limit (daily limit of 1 fish) was also implemented in all waters in the Clearwater River basin that were open to Steelhead fishing."

"Steelhead spawning is now mostly complete at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and managers there believe that Steelhead in excess of those needed to meet egg-take objectives are available for harvest. For this reason, the Commission decided to remove the length restriction on Steelhead that can be harvested in the Clearwater River downstream of Orofino Bridge and the North Fork Clearwater River.  The one fish daily limit still applies."

The commission also is adopting fishing seasons, which will be reported on Friday.

 

 

 

Wind River springer fishing seasons set to start

FISHING — The fish are still on their way, but the Washington is announcing spring chinook and steelhead seasons on the Wind River, a popular Columbia River tributary.  Here are details from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  The daily catch limit will be 2 chinook or 2 hatchery steelhead or one of each at various times and locations on the Wind River. 

  • Wind River from the mouth (boundary line markers) upstream to the

Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge:  Open March 16 through July 31.   

Anglers with a two-pole endorsement may fish with two poles for salmon 

and steelhead May 1 through June 30.  

  • Wind River from Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge upstream to 400 feet

below Shipherd Falls:  Open April 1 through July 31;

  • Wind River from 100 feet above Shipherd Falls to 800 yards downstream of

Carson National Fish Hatchery (except closed waters from 400 feet below to

100 feet above coffer dam):  Open May 1 through June 30.

Species affected:  Chinook and steelhead

Other information:  Release wild chinook downstream from Shipherd Falls. Release all trout other than hatchery steelhead. Minimum size 12 inches for salmon and 20 inches for steelhead.

When fishing for sturgeon or other species, only one pole per angler may be used.

The area from the railroad bridge upstream to Shipherd Falls will be closed to all fishing from March 16-31 to protect wild steelhead when salmon abundance is low. 

Reason for action:  The 2014 Wind River spring chinook returns are expected to be slightly higher than the recent 5 year average and more than twice last year’s actual return.  Surplus hatchery origin fish are available for harvest.

Hatchery fish are slow pokes, WSU study finds

FISHERIES — This isn't the first study to find that hatchery-reared salmonids tend to be inferior in one way or another to wild trout, steelhead and salmon, but it's the latest.

The report is released a day after Washington designated three steelhead rivers to be sanctuaries for wild fish by ending hatchery releases.

 Following is the just-released story by Washington State University science writer Eric Sorenson regarding the latest research:

Washington State University researchers have documented dramatic differences in the swimming ability of domesticated trout and their wilder relatives. The study calls into question the ability of hatcheries to mitigate more than a century of disturbances to wild fish populations.

Kristy Bellinger, who did the study for her work on a Ph.D. in zoology, said traditional hatcheries commonly breed for large fish at the cost of the speed they need to escape predators in the wild.

  • See Bellinger discussing her research in this YouTube video

“The use of hatcheries to support declining wild salmon and steelhead is controversial,” said Bellinger. “They have a role as being both a part of the solution in supplementing depleted stocks and as being a hindrance to boosting natural populations, as they often produce fish that look and behave differently from their wild relatives.”

Bellinger conducted the study with Gary Thorgaard, a nationally recognized fish geneticist and professor in WSU’s School of Biological Sciences, and her advisor, Associate Professor Patrick Carter. Their work is published in the journal Aquaculture.

The study used a sort of speed trap for fish, a meter-long plastic tank filled with water and fitted with electronic sensors. Over 10 weeks, Bellinger repeatedly ran 100 clonal (genetically similar) hatchery-raised and semi-wild rainbow trout through the tank, clocking their speed and monitoring their growth from week to week.  The clonal rainbow trout were propagated on the WSU campus.

The domesticated fish tended to grow faster. But while increased size is generally seen as a sign of fitness, the researchers saw that wasn’t the case as far as speed is concerned. “The highly domesticated fish have bigger body sizes but slower swim speeds compared to the more wild lines that are smaller,” said Bellinger. “It is intuitive to think that the more you feed them, the more they’re going to grow, the faster they’re going to be, and that’s what we see within each clonal line.  However, between the lines, the domesticated fish were larger but slower sprinters.”

Over the past century, hatcheries have become a mainstay of recreational fishing, providing millions of trout and other salmonids to lakes and streams. More recently, hatcheries have come to be seen as tools in conserving native stocks. The state of Washington has more than 200 hatcheries, with most producing salmon and steelhead, an ocean-running trout, and about one-fourth producing trout and other game fish.

Hatchery managers, said Bellinger, tend to select for large fish.

“Fish managers want the biggest bang for their buck,” she said. “But if increased size is a tradeoff of sprint speed, as our data show, then we assume hatchery fish are being picked off by predators due to their slower speed, which makes the process of supplementing native fish with hatchery fish an inefficient tool for conservation and a waste of money.”

The research was funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Three West Side rivers labeled “wild steelhead gene banks;” hatchery fish excluded

FISHERIES – Three tributaries of the lower Columbia River have been designated as “wild steelhead gene banks,” where it will no longer release steelhead raised in fish hatcheries, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

Starting this year, WDFW will no longer plant hatchery steelhead in the East Fork Lewis River or the North Fork Toutle/Green River

The Wind River, which has not been stocked with steelhead since 1997, will also be off-limits to any future releases.

Read on for the details from the WDFW:

Columbia steelhead fishing improves at Ringold

FISHING — Here's encouraging news for Columbia River steelhead anglers in the Ringold area of the Hanford Reach in today's creel report from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologist in the Tri-Cities:

Fishing has finally improved in the Ringold area steelhead sport fishery.  This past week WDFW staff interviewed 26 anglers (14 bank, 12 boat) with 18 steelhead (all hatchery).  Bank anglers averaged 16 hours per fish and bank anglers did much better at <6 hours per fish.