Clearwater Weekly Chinook Update (7/9/12)

Many of you have stopped fishing for Chinook in the Clearwater Region, but I know some of you still are so I am going to keep providing these updates until we shut down the season.

Most of the effort and catch we see right now in the Clearwater is near the release sites. Fishing in the North Fork continues to be good, and based on the fish I saw last week, it appears that many of them still have orange meat.  Some are starting to turn though.  What is interesting is that the catch rates we saw last week on the North Fork Clearwater (5 hrs/fish) was the best we have seen all year in any river section in the Clearwater River drainage.  So if you still want to catch a Chinook, you have a good opportunity.

Clearwater River Drainage        
  Chinook Salmon Kept Angler Hours Hours per fish kept  Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
Railroad Bridge to Cherrylane Bridge 0 0 0 0 - 0
Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge 0 0 0 0 - 0
North Fork Clearwater River 73 6 79 665 8 30
Orofino Bridge to Kooskia Bridge 0 0 0 9 - 0
Middle Fork Clearwater River 4 0 4 142 36 0
South Fork Clearwater River 3 0 3 435 145 3
Lochsa River 0 0 0 171 - 0
Clearwater River drainage          Week total 80 6 86 1422 17 33
Clearwater River drainage         Season total 3371 204 3575 76294 21 1110

Fishing in the Riggins area has really dropped off. Almost all the fish caught last week were in the Little Salmon with catch rates being about 20 hrs/fish. 

Believe it or not, the fishing picked back up below Hells Canyon Dam as we estimated that 18 adult Chinook were harvested last week. The fishing pressure was light so we actually estimated the best catch rate of the season below the dam last week at 11 hr/fish.

Snake River at Hells Canyon Dam Chinook Salmon Kept Angler Hours Hours per fish kept Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
  18 0 18 201 11 0
Snake River Season Total 182 16 198 6268 32 10

For you die hards out there, even though the season is winding down, we are seeing some of the best catch rates of the year in certain locations.

Lower Salmon River Chinook Salmon Kept Angler Hours Hours per fish kept Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
Rice Creek Bridge to Hammer Creek Boundary 0 28 28 140 5 0
Hammer Creek Boat Ramp to Time Zone Bridge 0 0 0 192 - 0
Time Zone Bridge to Mouth of Short's Creek 2 0 2 102 51 0
Short's Creek to Vinegar Creek 0 0 0 47 - 0
Salmon River Week Total 2 28 30 481 16 0
Salmon River Season Total 2314 262 2576 54949 21 615

Over the last several weeks I have received numerous comments about the tribal fishery on the Little Salmon and Rapid River.  So, I thought I would respond to all of you so we all have a similar understanding of what has happened. This year a buyer (I think from Portland) came over to Riggins to purchase Chinook salmon caught by the tribe. The tribe has the rights to allow this, but they set a season when this is allowed. The tribe shut down the commercial sale of unprocessed Chinook salmon over a week ago.  They can still sell smoked, canned, or jerked fish though.  When catching fish, the tribe utilized a variety of techniques, but in the Riggins area the only techniques I’m aware that they have used includes, dip nets, spears, and rod-and-reel.  No gill nets were used despite some rumors.  Regardless of what technique they use, the tribe, just like non-tribal anglers, cannot exceed their harvest share.  At this point the tribe has estimated they have caught around 3,500 fish – less than sport anglers have.  Some have suggested many more were caught as they looked at coolers of fish being brought to the purchaser.  Any time a large portion of the fish being caught are taken to one location, it will look like a lot of fish.  Can you imagine what it would have looked like if non-tribal anglers brought all their fish to one spot.  I can assure you that the tribe, just like us, are trying to do the best they can to determine just how many fish were harvested.  Neither of us want to over-harvest our fish and not meet brood stock needs.  That will only punish all of us in the future.   So I hope this clears up any questions you may have had about the tribal fishery.  If not, feel free to drop me a line.

Good luck.  - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager