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Economic and dam related articles

Clearwater Season Still Possible
with a Bump in Chinook Counts

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, May 21, 2021

Idaho Fish and Game will make its decision next week

In retrospect, the number of returning adult salmon was relatively level from 1938 through 1990.  The precipitous loss of returning chinook entering the Snake River (Figure 20) accounts for a major share of the decline that has occurred in total return to the Columbia -- Artificial Production Review, NW Power & Conservation Council Idaho fisheries managers are holding out hope there could be a limited spring chinook season on the Clearwater River.

A three-day uptick in the number of Idaho-bound chinook passing Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River last week lifted the state's projected harvest share for the Clearwater from negative territory to nearly 300 fish. It also brought the projected harvest share for chinook returning to Rapid River Hatchery near Riggins close to the preseason forecast.

Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said the agency hasn't yet determined if fishing will be allowed on the Clearwater.

Before the season, the agency predicted too few fish would return to hatcheries on the river to meet spawning goals, and no season was proposed. Since the fish started passing over Bonneville Dam, the return of Clearwater fish has been erratic, making last week's numbers hard to trust, DuPont said.

"By next week, we expect around 95 percent of the Clearwater River run to have passed over Bonneville Dam, which should allow us to make a decision with high confidence on what kind of opportunity we can provide," he said.

As of Tuesday, DuPont said the ever-evolving harvest share for the lower Salmon River and Little Salmon River stands at just more than 1,000 adult fish. Anglers fishing below Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River will be able to catch about 170 adult chinook, according to the latest forecast.

Through Wednesday, 56,332 adult chinook had been counted at Bonneville Dam. That is the most since 2018 but still only a little more than half of the 10-year average of 103,648.

Jack chinook are doing better. The 8,943 counted at the dam through Wednesday is the most since 2016 but still trails the 10-year average of 12,519.

"I wouldn't consider this to be a strong jack return, but it is good to see some improvements over previous years," DuPont said.

Last week, the department estimated anglers caught 154 adult chinook from the lower Salmon River. Fishing is open there and on the Little Salmon River Thursdays through Sundays.

Related Pages:
Spring Chinook Return Still Middling by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 5/7/21
Idaho's Spring Chinook Returns Remain Low, Clearwater Unlikely to Open to Anglers by Eli Francovich, Spokesman-Review, 5/12/21

Eric Barker
Clearwater Season Still Possible with a Bump in Chinook Counts
Lewiston Tribune, May 21, 2021

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