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Poor Returns Put
Chinook Season On Ice

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, May 15, 2019

Though run is weak, Idaho fishing could be reinstated if numbers pick up over next week

Adult counts of wild Chinook and Steelhead returning to Idaho (source: Idaho Fish & Game) Poor returns of adult hatchery salmon have prompted Idaho fisheries managers to suspend the weekend spring chinook fishery on the Clearwater River and its tributaries.

Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said according to the latest detections of Clearwater-bound chinook at Bonneville Dam, it appears too few fish are returning to meet hatchery spawning goals.

“We are suspending the season for a week, which means this Saturday and Sunday the season will not open, and then a week from now we will look at the data and evaluate if it should remain closed or if we can reopen,” he said. “Right now, the data suggests we are not going to get enough fish back to make brood.”

DuPont and other fisheries managers were not expecting a robust return to the Clearwater River. Based on preseason forecasts, they determined anglers would only be able to catch about 350 adult hatchery chinook from the river and sections of its North, South and Middle forks.

But the Clearwater run has come in even weaker than forecast, and based on current numbers may fall about 200 fish short of the nearly 4,400 needed for spawning at hatcheries. Consistent with runs of the past few years, this year’s chinook run also appears to be weeks behind long-term run timing and is estimated to be 60 percent to 72 percent complete at Bonneville Dam. DuPont noted that daily chinook counts at Bonneville Dam have fluctuated over the past week or so. Because of that, he said it’s still possible the fish will stage a late push. If that happens, fishing may be restored.

“Because numbers have been jumping around a bit, we don’t want to jump the boat and make a permanent closure,” he said.

Fisheries officials in Washington are likely to suspend the chinook fishery near Clarkston. Spring chinook bound for the Clearwater River often stack up near the river’s mouth and within the short section of the Snake River open to salmon fishing on weekends.

“They are pretty much fishing on 100 percent Clearwater fish there, and we are not going to exacerbate (Idaho’s) issue,” said Chris Donley, fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Spokane.

Idaho’s spring chinook fishery on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers will proceed as scheduled Thursday through Sunday, as will Washington’s chinook fishery near Little Goose Dam on Saturday and Sunday. DuPont said detections of chinook bound for the Rapid River Hatchery near Riggins have largely kept pace with preseason predictions, while chinook bound for the Clearwater have continued to fall behind forecasts.

He said anglers on the Little Salmon and lower Salmon are projected to be able to catch about 1,700 adult spring chinook. Donley said anglers fishing near Little Goose Dam on the Snake River do catch some chinook bound for the Clearwater, but those fish are mixed in with stocks bound for Rapid River Hatchery and rivers in Oregon and Washington.

Through Monday, about 38,415 adult chinook had been tallied passing Bonneville Dam, the second lowest through May 13 in the past 20 years. The 10-year average is 111,686. At Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River, about 1,120 adult spring chinook had been counted passing upstream through Monday, more than were counted through May 13 in 2018 and 2017, but far less than the 10-year average of 19,783.

Related Pages:
Chinook Fishing -- Limited as It Is -- Starts Saturday by Staff, Lewiston Tribune, 5/8/19
For 2019 Columbia/Snake Spring Chinook, Sockeye Returns Forecasted To Be Well Below Average by Staff, Lewiston Tribune 2/1/19
Meager Numbers of Returning Chinook Has State Fishery Managers Wary by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 4/21/19

Eric Barker
Poor Returns Put Chinook Season On Ice
Lewiston Tribune, May 15, 2019

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