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Chinook Opener Set for April 23

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, March 24, 2005

Idaho and Washington anglers will be able to fish for spring chinook again this year.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday approved seasons on the Snake, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, the Clearwater River and its North and South forks and the Lochsa River. Most fishing will start April 23 but the Lochsa River will open Memorial Day.

But those eager to fish for salmon will have to be patient. The springers have been slow to surge up the Columbia River.

As of Wednesday only 29 chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam, the first of eight dams the fish must pass before reaching the Lewiston area. The 10-year average for this time of year is 1,586 salmon at Bonneville

Idaho and Washington will hold a joint season, known as the boundary waters fishery, on the Snake River from Southway Bridge between Lewiston and Clarkston to Heller Bar.

The Snake River will also be open from Dug Bar to Hells Canyon Dam. The bag limit on the Snake will be one hatchery salmon per day and anglers will be able to keep 10 for the season. The boundary waters stretch will close May 30.

Washington is also considering opening a short section of the river near Little Goose Dam where it has had seasons for the past few years and short sections below Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite Dam, according to Glen Mendel, regional fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Dayton. He said the department will not hold a fishery like it has to past two years on Lower Granite Reservoir.

"We have tried two years now and it has just not produced much at all," he said.

The seasons on the lower Snake River near the dams would likely open April 4 or April 11 and have a one-fish-per-day bag limit if approved, said Mendel.

On the Clearwater River, bag limits will allow anglers to catch one salmon per day and up to 10 for the entire season. Officials say if the run exceeds predictions the bag limits could be raised. A total of 75,000 hatchery raised spring and summer chinook and 17,500 wild chinook are expected to return to Lower Granite Dam about 35 miles west of Lewiston on the Snake River.

The Clearwater River will be open from the Railroad Bridge at Lewiston to the Mouth of the South Fork of the Clearwater River at Kooskia. The Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, between the South Fork and the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway rivers, will not be open.

The normally popular fishery will not be held because fisheries officials do not expect enough salmon to return to Kooskia National Fish Hatchery at Kooskia this year to meet the facility's spawning capacity.

"It's just not prudent right now, when they are not even expected to meet brood, to propose a fishery," said Larry Barrett of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

Bag limits on the Salmon and Little Salmon River, where more hatchery salmon are expected to return, will be more liberal. Anglers will be able to keep two hatchery salmon per day and up to 20 for the season. The Main Salmon will be open from Hammer Creek to the mouth of the Little Salmon River. That fishery will close June 19.

Fisheries officials in both Washington and Idaho will be closely monitoring the salmon fishing seasons. The return of wild chinook that are protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act is expected be down this year.

Each state is allowed to incidentally kill some of the protected salmon during fishing seasons. But once their quotas are met fishing will be closed. However, according to Barrett, those quotas will increase if the actual return of wild salmon exceeds predictions.

Idaho is considering but has not yet approved salmon seasons for the first time in more than 30 years on the upper Salmon River near Salmon, Challis and Stanley.

Eric Barker
Chinook Opener Set for April 23
Lewiston Tribune, March 24, 2005

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