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Clearwater spring chinook fishing action heating up

A family group shows off a good catch of spring chinook from the lower Clearwater River in Idaho. (Reel Time Fishing)
A family group shows off a good catch of spring chinook from the lower Clearwater River in Idaho. (Reel Time Fishing)

FISHING -- Bigger numbers of spring chinook over Columbia and Snake River dams this week has translated into better salmon fishing in Idaho waters, says Joe Dupont, Idaho Fish and Game regional fisheries manager in Lewiston.

"Things have certainly improved since last week," he said Wednesday. "I have to admit, I was a little concerned.  But once flows coming out of Bonneville Dam dropped on April 28, chinook counts picked up."  The numbers this week peaked at 13,900 on Monday and many area headed to Idaho.  However, the counts over Bonneville declined through the week.

"The good news is, regardless of the run timing, we are going to have fisheries.  This next week will really tell us a lot.  If counts remain high, it would suggest the run timing is late."

River flows from unusual April snowmelt could be a factor, he said. 

Spring chinook adults generally take 14-18 days (depending on the stock) to swim from Bonneville Dam to Lower Granite Dam, but the range can vary from 8 to 40 days.   Add another day or two and they will be in Idaho, he said.

"Flows can make a big difference in how long it takes to get to Idaho .  For example, last year when flows were low, fish were making this migration 5 days faster than the historic average.  With flows the way they are now in the Columbia (a little above average), you may have to add a few days to the average.  

"What this means to all of you is that the big surge of Chinook that has been coming over Bonneville Dam over the last four days will probably reach Idaho in two weeks."

Springers generally take 5-13 days, depending on flows, to run the 90 miles from Lower Granite Dam to the Rice Creek Bridge over the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho.  High, dirty flows can stall the chinook migration, Dupont said.

No spring chinook had been checked by Idaho Fish and Game creel surveyors through last weekend in the Clearwater Region, although they know that some were caught.

"These last few days, I have had a couple people call and tell me they have a fish in the boat.  So, if you are wondering what to do this weekend, you may want to give chinook fishing a try."

Once the bite is on, anglers will have to stay tuned.   A quota will be set when run strength is better determined.  When the quota is reached, spring chinook fishing will be closed.

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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