Fish Talk

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.

Owyhee Reservoir - Early May

Two of us went to Owyhee Reservoir last Thursday 5/8. Water is really low only ramps available for use were by the dam and the one at the end of the road. The really nice one in the middle was almost completely out of the water, decided not to try since no one else had tried to launch there either. The crappie fishing was fantastic picked a bay up the lake a couple of miles and sat on the fish all day. Never went more than a cast or two without a hit for 5 hours. The fish were all the same size 8-9 inches I'll bet we caught over 200. We don't keep any (don't like fish) but had great weather and can't wait to go back this Thursday.  Mike B.

Salmon Fishing Update - May 12

Chinook salmon are slowly making their way to Idaho.  Last weekend, the Clearwater River averaged 16 hours per salmon caught - downstream of the Cherry Lane Bridge.  Estimated harvest was 426 fish.

Fishing on the Snake River was slow, as well with an estimated harvest of 12 Chinook.

The lower Salmon River (confluence to Riggins) saw a few fish caught and there was no documented harvest of salmon in the Little Salmon River.

If river flows don't increase dramatically in response to the warm weather - it should be a good weekend to try the lower Clearwater and Salmon rivers for Chinook.