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Idaho chinook salmon fishing opens May 4

Spring chinook salmon caught in the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho. (Exodus Wilderness Adventures)
Spring chinook salmon caught in the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho. (Exodus Wilderness Adventures)

FISHING -- Idaho will open a spring Chinook salmon fishing season on Saturday, May 4, on parts of the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake rivers, according to rules adopted today by the state Fish and Game Commission.

Fish counts from Bonneville Dam suggest that the 2013 return of Chinook salmon to Idaho may be significantly lower than forecast but large enough to support fisheries. Projected returns for the Clearwater River are farther below forecast levels than returns to the Salmon and Snake rivers.

Fish and Game tailored the 2013 fisheries proposals to meet hatchery broodstock needs, focus fishing efforts in areas where hatchery fish are most abundant, and still allow fishing in river reaches that anglers have grown accustomed to fishing in recent years.

The proposal for the Clearwater River approved by the commission achieves these goals by limiting fishing to four days per week and reducing the length of river open to fishing in each of the recently fished sections.

Only the Lochsa River is closed entirely to fishing.

Salmon returns to the Salmon and Snake rivers do not appear to be as far below forecast levels as those to the Clearwater. Fisheries in the Lower Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake rivers are similar to fisheries in recent years. These areas will be open seven days a week, and river sections recently fished will not be shortened – except the Shorts Bar to Vinegar Creek stretch of the lower Salmon River, which is closed.

Read on for details on Idaho areas open and closed to fishing.

River sections open to fishing are:

Clearwater River drainage: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday only.

  • Clearwater River – lower main stem: From the Camas Prairie Railroad Bridge upstream to the Highway 12 (Arrow) Bridge
  • Clearwater River – middle main stem: From the posted boundary near the confluence of the North Fork and Clearwater rivers upstream to the Orofino bridge.
  • Clearwater River – upper main stem: From Orofino Bridge upstream to the Highway 11 Greer Bridge.
  • North Fork Clearwater: From the mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam excluding the perimeter of the Dworshak National Hatchery at Ahsahka.

Fishing from any watercraft is prohibited.

  • South Fork Clearwater River: From the Highway 13 bridge approximately 0.2 miles downstream of the Harpster Grade Road upstream to the Highway 14 bridge at Mount Idaho Grade.
  • Middle Fork Clearwater River:From the mouth of the South Fork Clearwater River upstream to the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway rivers.

Salmon River drainage:

  • Lower Salmon River:From the Rice Creek Bridge upstream to the to a posted boundary at the mouth of Short’s Creek (about 1.4 miles upstream of the mouth of the Little Salmon River).
  • Little Salmon River: From the mouth upstream to the US Highway 95 Bridge near Smokey Boulder Road.

Snake River:

  • Snake River: From the Dug Bar boat ramp upstream to Hells Canyon Dam.

Fishing hours: Consistent with hours fished in recent years. See the Idaho Fish and Game 2013 Chinook Salmon Seasons and Rules pamphlet for daily start and end times.


  • On the Clearwater and Snake rivers the daily limit is four Chinook, only one may be an adult, and the possession limit is 12 Chinook, only three may be adults.
  • On the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, the daily limit is four, only two may be adults, and the possession limit is 12 Chinook, only six of which may be adults.
  • Season limit statewide: 10 adult Chinook during the 2013 seasons occurring before September 1.

Only Chinook salmon with a clipped adipose fin, as evidenced by a healed scar, may be kept.

An angler must cease fishing for Chinook salmon once they have retained their daily, possession, or season limit of adult Chinook salmon or their overall (fish of any size) daily or possession limit of Chinook salmon, whichever comes first.

Only adult Chinook salmon must be recorded on the salmon permit. An adult Chinook is any adipose fin-clipped Chinook 24 or more inches from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. Chinook salmon less than 24 inches (jacks) count against the daily limit but need not be recorded on the salmon permit.

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

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