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

Barker: Forecast for spring chinook not terrible, but also not good

Eric Barker
By Eric Barker Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON – The forecast for this year’s spring chinook run is difficult to characterize.

There is no doubt it’s not a good forecast. But it’s not pull-your-hair-out terrible.

We know that because we’ve seen that level of terrible too often in the past decade.

Too many times, the run has been so small that we either haven’t been able to fish or the season carried a tiny harvest share that was met in a flash.

When you have a string of terrible years, it becomes tempting to view an average year or even a below-average year as a positive. Regional fisheries manager Joe DuPont refuses to give into that sort of recency bias.

I asked him to describe the 2024 forecast for the Clearwater River and he struggled a bit. He said it’s neither good nor terrible, but it’s closer to terrible than good.

“It’s not anywhere close to what we want it to be,” he said.

“Once you start getting to the four-day-a-week fishery, that is not good.”

But DuPont didn’t want to lean too far into doom and gloom. While the run is far short of the expectations of anglers and fisheries managers, it will provide fishing opportunities in the Clearwater, Salmon, Little Salmon rivers and in the Snake River in Hells Canyon.

“I would say the run is going to be below average when compared to the last 15 years,” he said. “We’ve had a string of years that were just terrible since 2016, so you don’t want to say it’s the top two run in the last seven years, which were some of the worst years we’ve seen since the 1990s.”

The Rapid River forecast is stronger. On paper, it would justify a seven-day-a-week season with a one fish bag limit. But not by much. DuPont also said it too is “below average compared to the last 15 years.”

So we are looking at a run, based on the preseason forecast, that probably grades out as a C-minus. If the forecast proves accurate, we will fish. That’s something. It’s a passing grade but nothing to celebrate.

Eric Barker is the outdoors editor of the Lewiston Tribune.