Fall Chinook Salmon Update for
by Joe DuPont
Idaho's fall Chinook Salmon season opened on Aug. 18 so I figured I better put out an update to let people know what is going on with this fishery. In this update, I will try to answer the questions people have been asking most frequently including what is the run looking like, what percent of the run is being trapped at Lower Granite Dam for broodstock, and what fishing rules do you need to follow if you have both an Idaho and Washington fishing license and would like to fish the boundary waters and/or both states during the same day.
Fall Chinook "officially" started passing over Lower Granite Dam on Aug. 18, which means we don't have a lot to go on to evaluate how this year's return is progressing. However, I have provided the figure that shows how the 2022 preseason forecast (graph not shown) compares to previous year's returns. If this year's forecast is accurate (they often are for fall Chinook), we would see a similar return as the previous two years which provided fisheries that lasted through the entire season. If counts at Bonneville Dam over the last two days (Aug. 24 and 25) are any indication of what this run is will be like, we could be in for a good year.
To help those of you who were wondering when the best time to fish for fall Chinook is, I have provided a run timing figure (graph not shown) that shows when most of the fish pass over Lower Granite Dam. Based on this information, the second week of September is when the fish counts at Lower Granite Dam typically peak, and once the counts peak, they typically stay up for two to three weeks.
Trapping broodstock at Lower Granite Dam
The fall Chinook Salmon hatchery program has played a key role in why fall Chinook Salmon returns to the Snake River basin have improved dramatically since the 1980's and 1990's. Three hatcheries rear and release fall Chinook Salmon in the Snake River basin. Their overall goal is to release 5.65 million smolts into the Snake River basin with about 80% of these fish being released upstream of Lower Granite Dam.
The broodstock for this program is collected at a fish trap located on Lower Granite Dam's fish ladder. These fish are trapped in a manner to help meet broodstock goals and reduce handling of wild steelhead. To meet these goals this year, plans are to trap about 60% of the return up until Sept. 6 and then switch over to trapping 18% of the run. The date this switch in trap rates occurs on could vary a little depending on where we are at with achieving our goals. Right now we are ahead on broodstock collection, so this switch could occur earlier than Sept. 6.
One thing that is important to realize is that the fish trap is located upstream (after) Lower Granite Dam's fish counting window. That means that not all fish you see counted at the window will make it past Lower Granite Dam.
To get a close approximate of how many adult fish are making it past Lower Granite Dam and to our fisheries, you could take the daily window count and subtract out 60% of the adult run (or just multiply it by 40%). After Sept. 6, you would subtract out 18% of the run.
Seasons and limits
You can review the seasons and limits by going to the Idaho Fall Chinook Seasons and Rules link. I will provide these key points:
The season in Idaho started on Aug. 18, 2022 (the North Fork Clearwater opens Sept. 1).
The fishery will occur in the Snake River, lower Salmon River, and much of the Clearwater basin
The daily limit is three (3) adult fish (adipose clipped or unclipped)
Fishing will be allowed seven days a week in all areas that are open
For those who like to fish in Washington or with a Washington fishing license in the confluence area, you can view their regulations for the Snake River by going to the link at Washington Fall Chinook Seasons and Rules. For the most part, Washington has the same limits and seasons as Idaho.
One popular area to fish for fall Chinook Salmon is around the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers (see map above). Recognize that if you choose to fish this area, the regulations can be confusing as it includes two different states and each state may interpret their regulations differently.
Where it can get complicated is for those people who have both an Idaho and Washington fishing license and fish in Washington only waters, boundary waters, and Idaho only waters. For those of you who like to do this, you should be aware of the following things.
When fishing the boundary water, you can only exercise the privileges of one license at the same time. For example, if you are fishing with two rods (Idaho allows this if you have a two-pole permit, Washington does not allow this) in the boundary water, you must tag your fish on an Idaho permit. You also must follow all other Idaho regulations such as in Idaho whoever hooks the fish must tag the fish (in Washington whoever lands the fish must tag the fish). In addition, if you fish the boundary water, you are entitled to have in possession only the limit allowed by one license regardless of the number of licenses in possession.
Where it can get even more complicated is if you wanted to fish from Washington only waters, then into boundary waters, and then into Idaho only waters. In Idaho, we are fine with that as long as you don't go over your daily limit and you follow the regulations of the license you are required to use at the time. Washington may have a different view of this, and I urge you to call the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to understand how they will enforce various scenarios. For example, if you fish with two rods in the boundary water or tag a fish with an Idaho permit, you may not be able to legally fish in Washington only waters.
My advice if you are unsure of what you can and can't do is to stick to only one license, stay within the waters that license allows you to fish in, and follow the regulations for the state the license belongs to.
Good luck fishing!
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