Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Outdoors blog

Spring chinook fishing to open in Snake River in Idaho, Washington

Salmon anglers pose with their spring chinook at The Guide Shop in Orofino, Idaho, last Sunday after returning from a Clearwater River fishing trip.
Salmon anglers pose with their spring chinook at The Guide Shop in Orofino, Idaho, last Sunday after returning from a Clearwater River fishing trip.

FISHING -- Idaho's spring Chinook fishing season will open Saturday, April 23, on parts of the mainstem Clearwater, Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater, Lochsa, Snake Lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers.

Washington will open portions of the Snake with limited timing starting April 29 and May 1 (details below).

The returns of hatchery origin adult Chinook salmon to the Snake in 2016 are expected to be about 30 percent less than robust returns observed in 2015 but still among the top five observed since 2000. 

Through April 18, more than 5,000 adult Chinook had crossed Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, while about 80 adult salmon fish have crossed Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. 

Idaho Fish and Game tailored the 2016 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.


Clearwater Basin, except for the South Fork Clearwater River -- limits are set at four fish per day, only one of which may be an adult. The possession limit in these parts of the Clearwater River drainage will be 12 fish, only three of which may be adults.

South Fork Clearwater, lower Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake River fisheries --anglers will be allowed to keep four fish per day, only two of which may be adults. The possession limit in these fisheries will be 12 fish, of which only six may be adults.

These areas will be open seven days a week. The season limit will be 20 adult Chinook salmon for seasons prior to Sept.1.

Only hatchery origin Chinook salmon with a clipped adipose fin, as evidenced by a healed scar, may be kept.  Only harvested adult Chinook salmon must be recorded on the salmon permit.  Adult Chinook Salmon are those 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.

Anglers 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.

Other rules and special restrictions for the Chinook salmon fishery are in Idaho's 2016 Spring Chinook Salmon Seasons and Rules brochure.


Three sections of the Snake River will be opened for spring chinook fishing two days a week starting April 29 until further notice.  Details:

A)  Below Ice Harbor Dam: Snake River from the Southbound Highway 12 Bridge near Pasco upstream about 7 miles to the fishing restriction boundary below Ice Harbor Dam.

B)  Below Little Goose Dam: Snake River from Texas Rapids boat launch (south side of the river upstream from the mouth of the Tucannon River) to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam. This zone includes the rock and concrete area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility (includes the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility).

C) Clarkston: 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 (from the east levee of the Greenbelt boat launch in Clarkston northwest across the Snake River to the WA/ID boundary waters marker on the Whitman County shore).  

  • Area A (Below Ice Harbor Dam) open Friday, April 29, and will be open only Friday and Saturday each week.
  • Areas B and C (below Little Goose Dam and near Clarkston) open Sunday, May 1, and will be open only Sunday and Monday each week. 

Daily Limits: 6 hatchery chinook (adipose fin clipped), of which no more than one may be an adult chinook salmon. For all areas open for chinook salmon harvest, anglers must cease fishing for salmon when the hatchery adult limit has been retained for the day.

Reason for action: The pre-season forecast indicates a relatively strong return of spring chinook and anglers have stressed their desire for a longer fishery season. For this reason, Snake River fisheries in each zone will be limited to two days per week (with only one weekend day included each week) with a daily bag limit of one adult hatchery chinook. These restrictions will help prolong the duration of the season, enable sharing of fishing opportunities with upriver fishery zones, and facilitate compliance with Endangered Species Act (ESA) restrictions and harvest allocations available for the Snake River.

Other Information: The minimum size of any retained chinook salmon is 12 inches.  Jacks are less than 24 inches in length and adults are over 24 inches in length. The adipose fin-clipped chinook salmon that can be retained must have a healed scar at the location of the missing fin. All chinook salmon with an intact adipose fin, and all bull trout and steelhead, must be immediately released unharmed.

In addition: Anglers must use barbless hooks when fishing for any species during the days of the week the salmon fishery is open in any area. Only single-point barbless hooks are allowed when fishing for sturgeon. A night closure is in effect for salmon and sturgeon. It is unlawful to use any hook larger than 5/8 inch (point of hook to shank) when fishing for all species except sturgeon. Anglers cannot remove any chinook salmon or steelhead from the water unless it is retained as part of the daily bag limit.

Refer to the 2015/2016 Fishing in Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for other regulations, including safety closures.

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.

Follow Rich online:

Go to the full Outdoors page