Spring chinook fishing will close on Idaho’s lower Salmon River this evening but will remain open on the nearby LittleSalmon River and on the Snake River in Hells Canyon at least through Sunday.
Fisheries managers from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced the pending closure Tuesday as part of their effort to allow limited angling opportunity while ensuring hatchery return goals are met and threatened wild chinook aren’t unduly affected.
So far, the Columbia River spring chinook run, as measured at Bonneville Dam, is larger than expected but still only about 53 percent of the 10-year average. State, federal and tribal fisheries managers in the Columbia Basin had expected 75,200 adult springers bound for tributaries above Bonne-ville Dam to return from the ocean this spring. Last week, they upgraded the forecast to 87,000.
“To date, this spring return is better than the past two years, but outside of that, you would have to go back to 1999 before you would find another spring return with lower counts at Bonne-ville Dam,” said Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the department, in his weekly update on the season.
The larger-than-expected return of hatchery fish may be enough for the agency to open fishing on the Clearwater River or some of its tributaries and on the South Fork of the Salmon River. But the agency has not yet sought approval for those fisheries from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Neither river was expected to see returns abundant enough to allow angling when fisheries managers made their preseason forecasts. DuPont said the Clearwater could be limited to jack chinook fishing only if it opens. Jacks are salmon that return after spending just one year in the ocean.
The lower Salmon River and Little Salmon River are open Thursdays through Sundays. The season there is designed to target fish returning to the nearby Rapid River Hatchery. According to the latest update, the hatchery is expected to produce a harvestable surplus of about 966 adult fish. So far, an estimated 427 adult chinook have been caught and all but 17 came from the lower Salmon River. The state attempts to evenly split harvest between the two rivers.
DuPont said anglers on the lower Salmon are expected to exhaust their share by Friday, leaving the balance to be harvested on the Little Salmon River. The two rivers meet at Riggins.
In Washington, a short section of the Snake River near Little Goose Dam was open to chinook harvest Tuesday and is expected to be open again Friday. Fisheries managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had closed the fishery earlier this month but opted to reopen in an attempt to take advantage of the updated forecast. Before the closure, anglers had harvested 233 spring chinook from the Snake. Based on the new forecast, they can catch an additional 369 fish for a total of 604.
Salmon fishing remains open seven days a week on the Snake River in Hells Canyon between Dug Bar and Hells Canyon Dam. The harvest share there is 154 adult chinook and anglers have already caught about a third of that number.
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