Clearwater Blog

Dare to go to Idaho [CNN top 10 list]

Secrets of Idaho's beauty are becoming more rare as the state cracked a world-wide list of lesser-known or emerging travel spots. Idaho was listed 4 of 10, and is included with places like Mongolia, Malawi, Bolivia, and even outer space. 

Get your fishing license early to beat the rush and enjoy our wonderful Idaho.

Rapid River and Hells Canyon Chinook Harvest Estimate

Info for the third week in May.


Rapid River Run

Fishing on the Rapid River run was slow once again last week.  We started seeing some harvest and then flows increased and the water turned dirty, and basically shut the fishery down.  High flows and dirty water are suppose to occur at least through the weekend, so I don’t expect to see a lot of harvest this week on the Rapid River run.


Hells Canyon

Fishing below Hells Canyon Dam picked up last week with an estimated harvest of 57  adult fish and average catch rates of 19 hrs/fish.  Harvest of fish should pick up this week depending on flows.  Many fish are coming into the trap which we will close shortly to improve fishing below the dam.


Clearwater, Lower Salmon and Little Salmon Harvestable Quota

First of all, the run of fish headed to the Clearwater Water Region has mostly finished (97-99% complete) their migration over Bonneville Dam.  As such the projected harvest shares you see below won’t change much until we can get a final assessment of their survival as they migrate upriver to Idaho.

Clearwater River Run

Fishing in the lower Clearwater (downstream of Cherrlylane Bridge) remained constant last week (16/hrs), but fishing effort increased which resulted in a boost in harvest (see table below).  As hopefully most of read last week, due to this increase in harvest we were forced to quickly close adult harvest down on this section of river.  Catch rates in the remaining river sections were low (23-53 hrs/fish) for the week especially since just as the fish were moving upriver high flows and debris made fishing difficult.  Flows have dropped down a bit recently in the Clearwater River, but are predicted to pick up again later this week which may continue to make fishing difficult.  As you can tell from the Clearwater River harvest table below, we overshot our harvest goal for the lower river.  At this point we will paly it by ear on where/how to make up this for this overharvest.  In past years when high flows lasted for extended periods of times, there were certain reaches of river that never reached their harvest quotas.  If that happens this year, these river reaches could absorb this extra harvest and still not close early.  As the season progresses, we’ll let you know what appears to be the best strategy so as to have the least influence on closing other fisheries early.


A Chinook is a Chinook - Not

Those of us that live up-River of Riggins are sure hoping that IDFG will limit the lower Salmon River Chinook harvest, so as to allow a decent adult return to the upper River, especially the Pahsimeroi, and Sawtooth hatcheries. After all, is this not the "seed" that feeds the entire River....????  Darren


The Chinook salmon running back to Idaho don't leave the ocean to begin their return journey to spawning streams or hatcheries at the same time.  The earliest Chinook to cross Bonneville Dam are headed to the Clearwater River, Snake River, and Little Salmon River systems.  We know the timing because a small percentage of fish have PIT tags that are read in the fish ladder as they swim over the dam.  This allows us to estimate the population of returning salmon several weeks before the fish reach Idaho.  This is why we set the Chinook salmon season and bag limits for lower river fisheries in March.  A few weeks later, we see PIT tagged fish headed for the South Fork Salmon River pass Bonneville Dam.  Once we have a good idea of the population size, based on the PIT tag information, we set the season and bag limit at the May Commission meeting for the South Fork Salmon River.  The last fish to pass Bonneville Dam contain PIT tags that tell us that they are headed for the upper Salmon River and the Sawtooth and Pahsimeroi Fish hatcheries.  That's why the Upper Salmon River season and bag limit is set last.  Typically, by the time Upper Salmon Basin salmon pass Lower Granite Dam and enter Idaho, the lower Salmon River and Clearwater River seasons are closed.

The three different salmon groups all spawn around the same time (early August thru early September).  Because Chinook salmon can no longer utilize food once they leave the ocean, biologists believe this segregated timing of the fish leaving the ocean is a stratagy to optimize survival to spawning time.  So, the fish that swim the farthest are the last to leave the ocean (they build their strenth in the ocean for as long as they can before starting their "death-swim" to the Stanley Basin).  Chinook in the lower Salmon and Clearwater have an easier journey and expend less energy on the trip.  Consequently, they leave the ocean earlier and can live long in fresh water living on their fat reserves.

Most Chinook salmon return to the stream or hatchery where they "smolted" or began the journey from Idaho to the ocean. So, not all Chinook salmon that enter the Salmon River are headed to the Stanley Basin.  -  dparrish



Rapid River Hatchery Report - May 15th

The trap at Rapid River Hatchery (tributary to Little Salmon River) has trapped only 1 adult fish.  There have been rumors of Chinook being caught in the Little Salmon River but our creel clerks have been unable to verify any fish being caught in the Little Salmon River.

Best bet is to fish the lower Salmon River (Slate Creek area) and near the mouth of the Little Salmon River.

Lake Pend Oreille kokanee bag limit

Due to the large number of kokanee we are seeing in Lake Pend Oreille in 2014, we changed the bag limit from 6 to 15 as of today, May 15th.  Kokanee are a great tasting fish.  Check with your local sportshops on how to fish for kokanee.  During the summer months, anglers in boats are more successful than bank anglers.  Fishing flash gear with a piece of bait at a depth of 20 - 30' is the general way.  You can also jig using a colored jig with worm or maggot.