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An Idaho first: Coho fishing to open on Clearwater

Chart shows identifying features of Clearwater River fish. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)
Chart shows identifying features of Clearwater River fish. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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.



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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