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Idaho Fish and Game: Spring Chinook
Salmon Run 'Very Late and Very Low'

by George Prentice
Boise Weekly, May 22, 2017

"We've never seen anything quite like this," said IDFG Fisheries Bureau Chief Jim Fredericks.

Spring Chinook fishing in the Northwest is popular either from a boat or from the bank.  Let's go fishing. Idaho fisheries managers have determined that they'll need to end the Gem State's spring Chinook salmon fishing season early on the Mainstream Clearwater, North Fork Clearwater, Middle Fork Clearwater, South Fork Clearwater, Lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers. The season will end on May Wednesday, May 24. The section of the Snake River from Dug Bar to Hells Canyon Dam will remain open because officials said "it is unlikely that Fish and Game will be able to trap there this year, and impacts to natural fish are not an issue int that stretch." The decision comes after news of a dramatically late and sparse number of chinook returning to Idaho waterways.

Estimates of adult hatchery Chinook salmon passing Bonneville Dam and destined for the Salmon and Clearwater Rivers are far less than earlier anticipated when the season opened in April. Historically, more than 96 percent of Salmon River and Clearwater River spring Chinook hatchery fish have crossed Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River by May 21.

"Despite recent modest increases in fish counts at Bonneville Dam, it is very unlikely that those increases can overcome the deficit accrued in the previous weeks," said IDFG Anadromous Fish Manager Sam Sharr.

According to a release from IDFG, "Fisheries managers concluded the total number of adults returning are insufficient to support harvest, and they're also concerned there may not be enough to replenish all hatcheries."

Fisheries managers from around the region say they are entering "uncharted territory" in what could be the latest spring run of Chinook salmon on record.

In a news release Monday, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported the 2017 spring Chinook run is expected to be about half the original projection of 45,000 fish at the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. Only 472 Chinook had crossed the dam through May 18. The 10-year average for that date has been 30,789.

"We've never seen anything quite like this," said IDFG Fisheries Bureau Chief Jim Fredericks. "The question has been, 'Is it late?' or 'Is it low?' And now it's looking like it's very late and very low."

Officials said they would meet this week to re-evaluate the current fishing season. According to IDFG, few Chinook salmon have been caught in the Snake or Clearwater rivers, and fishing may have to be closed to give the fish a chance to build up their numbers.

Of the 10,000 summer Chinook predicted to return to Idaho, about 2,300 are needed to replenish hatcheries, according to IDFG.

George Prentice
Idaho Fish and Game: Spring Chinook Salmon Run 'Very Late and Very Low'
Boise Weekly, May 22, 2017

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