Weekly Chinook Update 5/16/12

Hi all.  It appears my crystal ball has some glitches in it that I need to work out.  Our projected harvest share (based on counts at Bonneville Dam) for adult Chinook salmon for the entire  Clearwater River basin increased by about 1,200 fish from last week, which is great, but I’m not sure we will get to that 7,000 to 9,500 range that my crystal ball predicted (see table below or click 'read more' for estimates). 

Fish destined for the Clearwater River are still coming over Bonneville in good numbers and the Jacks are just starting to arrive which may indicate there still are a bunch to come.  Regardless, we are in the makings for one of the best Chinook seasons in the Clearwater River since 2002.   Based on our creel surveys, we estimated that 16 adult Chinook salmon were harvested from the Clearwater River last week.  I’ve already heard of more fish harvested this week, and the counts are really starting to pick up over Lower Granite Dam.  This weekend should be a great time to be fishing in the lower Clearwater.  These fish will start pushing further upstream later in the week.

Where my crystal ball seems to really have had some problems is with predicting the run headed for the Riggins area.  The projected harvest share has not changed since last week (about 5,000 adult fish) and based on the number of PIT tagged fish coming over Bonneville it makes it seem that the run over Bonneville Dam is starting to be wind down.  However, a harvest share of over 5,000 adults is nothing to scoff about.  We’ve had some great fisheries in the Riggins area with fewer fish than that.  We also don’t have the same snow pack as last year, so we shouldn’t expect the same continuous high flows that can cause havoc with our fisheries.  Right now flows are projected to be in the 45,000 to 55,000 range for the next week.  This may or may not influence fish movement depending on how dirty the water gets.  Right now two-thirds of the fish crossing over Lower Granite Dam are headed for Rapid River and they have been passing over the Dam for about two weeks now.  That means these fish should just start to be arriving in the Riggins Area fishery.  We think the slide (a big rapid on the lower Salmon River) can cause delays once flows start exceeding 50,000 cfs so this may slow down these fishes travel times.  I hope to hear of the first fish being caught in Riggins by this weekend or a little bit later in this area. 

I also expect somebody to start catching fish in the Hells Canyon Fishery by this weekend as well. 

Adult Chinook salmon run estimate based on PIT tags passing over Bonneville Dam
Release group Bonneville pre-season forecast Current number over Bonneville based on PIT tags Projected total run estimate to Bonneville based on late run timing Broodstock needs Estimated non-tribal harvest share above LGD
Dworshak 30,720 6,604 7,090 1,200 1,519
Kooskia (Dwrs) 3,680 2,785 3,755 800 804
Kooskia (Clwr) 2,539 1,459 1,523 NA 544
Selway 4,154 2,311 2,496 NA 751
Powell 6,146 1,459 1,569 694 214
SF Clearwater 10,287 3,989 4,308 1,014 940
Total Clearwater R. 57,525 18,606 20,742 3,708 4,772
Rapid River 35,425 16,074 17,070 2,000 4,826
Upper Little Salmon R.   939 997 NA 339
Total Riggins Area 35,425 17,012 18,067 2,000 5,165
Hells Canyon    3,227 3,427 400 965

We’re seeing the fish are here and people are catching fish, it’s time for me to get out on the river.  I’ve been busy curing my bait and sharpening my hooks, so I think tomorrow will be my day.  I hope to see some of you out there.   Good luck fishing.  - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager.