The time is now for catching spring chinook salmon on the lower Clearwater River, and the fish are likely to be plentiful in the lower Salmon River near Riggins in the near future.
Fish counts at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River have exceeded 1,100 adult chinook for the past three days and topped 3,300 on Tuesday and 2,400 on Wednesday. At Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, daily chinook counts appear to have peaked with a high of 13,500 on May 3 but continued to exceed 3,000 a day on Monday and Tuesday and jumped north of 6,700 on Wednesday.
“I expect a surge of fish to start pushing up the Clearwater River soon if not already. It is time to start fishing the lower Clearwater,” said Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, in his weekly run update.
Fishery managers raised the official forecast for spring chinook returning to tributaries upstream of Bonneville Dam from the preseason estimate of 122,900 to nearly 162,000. As of Wednesday, more than 100,000 spring chinook had been counted there, about 25,000 more than the 10-year average.
More than 9,600 adult chinook have been counted at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River as of Wednesday, and most of those crossed the dam this week.
DuPont estimated the run, as measured at Bonneville Dam, is likely 65% to 70% done.
He is projecting a harvest share of about 5,200 on the Clearwater River and nearly 4,000 on the Little Salmon and lower Salmon rivers.
The number of hatchery spring chinook surplus to hatchery spawning needs is split evenly between the state and the Nez Perce Tribe. That number is known as a harvest share.
As of April 7, the agency hadn’t yet documented harvest of spring chinook in the Clearwater River. That has likely changed by now. Hog lines of boats have been forming in the lower Clearwater River near the Railroad Bridge in Lewiston for the past several days as river flows have receded.