See the Idaho 2010 Spring Chinook Salmon Seasons & Rules brochure for detailed rules.


Adults generally 18-40 inches in length. Irregularly shaped black spots on back, dorsal fin and tail. Teeth well developed. Black mouth and gum line. Adults return to Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers to spawn after 1-3 years at sea. Juveniles migrate to ocean after 18 months in streams. NATIVE.



Parr marks are large, oblong shapes.


Illustration by Joseph Tomelleri.

Links to more information about Chinook Salmon:


Idaho Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

Chinook Salmon Information

Chinook salmon are anadromous fish, meaning they migrate to the ocean as smolts and return to fresh water to spawn and then die. In Idaho, adults return to the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers after 1 to 3 years at sea, generally 18 to 40 inches in length, and weighing up to 25 lbs. The migration journey home is impeded by many obstacles - predation, dams and pollution take their toll on dwindling return numbers.

Idaho's chinook salmon are often loosely separated into three groups - Spring, Summer and Fall, based on their size and ocean life history. Fish seen later in the year are generally larger, having spent more time in nutrient-rich ocean waters. These salmon are also classified as being wild or hatchery-spawned, an important distinction when there are enough numbers returning to spawn to allow a harvest season. Only hatchery fish may be kept, wild fish must be set free immediately.


This native fish is one of the most fascinating fishes found in Idaho. Its body is silver to olive-colored. The inside of its mouth is unique; it's black. They range from 18-40 inches and can attain a weight of 45 pounds.

Most of Idaho's Chinook migrate to the ocean for part of their lives. At one time, these fish were found in many of the state's river drainages. However, changes in habitat, including dam construction on the Columbia and Snake rivers, put these fish in a precarious position. The population has declined and hatchery programs are needed. Despite hatchery programs, only a few Chinook return to Idaho each year.

Fishery managers have stocked land-locked populations of Chinook in several Idaho lakes.

Life History
Chinook return to their spawning habitat in the fall after one to three years at sea. The female builds a large redd (nest) that may be six feet in diameter and one to four feet deep.

They lay between 4,500 and 10,000 eggs. When spawning is completed, both male and female die. The eggs hatch in the spring and the juvenile fish live the next year in fresh water, except for fall chinook that only live a couple months in fresh water before leaving for the ocean.

Feeding Habits
Young fish in fresh water eat both aquatic and terrestrial insects. They turn to a diet of fish once they reach salt water. Adults returning to spawn do not eat; they live off their fat reserves.

Angling Techniques
Regulations require the use of rod and reel when fishing for chinook. In streams, chinook strike bright lures or fresh roe.

In lakes, the land-locked Chinook are caught by trolling flashy lures and/or large flies on down riggers, or by jigging large lures near the bottom.

Weekly Fishing Report

Bonneville/Lower Granite Dam Salmon Counts