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Sunday, October 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Chinook return ‘changing for the worse every day’

Clearwater River salmon fishermen try their luck with some success at catching chinook salmon in 2011. (Steve Hanks / Tribune/Steve Hanks)
Clearwater River salmon fishermen try their luck with some success at catching chinook salmon in 2011. (Steve Hanks / Tribune/Steve Hanks)
By Eric Barker The Lewiston Tribune

Fisheries managers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game say the return of spring chinook to Clearwater River Hatcheries continues to slip and is projected to fall further behind spawning goals than was previously projected.

Last week, the agency suspended the two-day-a-week fishing season on the Clearwater when officials projected the run would fall about 200 fish behind spawning goals. Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the department at Lewiston, said it now looks like the run will be about 300 fish shy of those goals.

“It’s changing, but it’s changing for the worse every day, and it could even get worse,” DuPont said. “The run is not as late as we hoped.”

The department has closed fishing on the Clearwater and its tributaries for the season. The Thursday-through-Sunday chinook season on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers is open. However, DuPont said the harvest share has slipped from a projection of about 1,600 adult chinook last week to 1,300 this week. Although fishing is unlikely to be good there, DuPont said anglers are likely to catch a few chinook during this week’s open fishing period.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed the chinook salmon fishery on the Snake River below Little Goose Dam. The season was open on Saturdays and Sundays only and without the closure would have resumed this weekend.

According to a news release from the agency, the season was shuttered because there aren’t enough fish left on the state’s designated harvest quota to continue fishing. The agency previously closed chinook fishing on the Snake River near Clarkston to help protect fish returning to Idaho hatcheries on the Clearwater River.

The gloomy run performance also includes some bad news for the 2020 run. Fisheries managers had hoped they would see a healthy return of jack chinook because of improving ocean conditions. Jack chinook spend just one year in the ocean before returning to spawn and often give managers a hint about future returns. But the latest projections indicate this year’s jack return to Clearwater River hatcheries and Rapid River Hatchery will be the second lowest in the past 10 years.

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