Clearwater chinook seasons

Question:

Hi, I am an avid salmon and steelhead fisherman on the Clearwater River, and I am trying to understand the season this year. As of today, May 18th, we are on track to have one of the best returns over Lower Granite in over 10 years. If these numbers keep coming through the end of the month, we could have 70 to 80,000 chinook over Granite in the month of May. That's a lot of fish. In 2011 we didn't have that many come over and we were fishing for adults into late June. What's the deal? Are the PIT tags that skewed towards the Salmon drainage this year? Doesn't seem so to me. Did the poor 2013 run cause the IDFG to be more hesitant? Finally, if these numbers continue, could we see an increase in harvest share and season length? It only seems right. Thanks, Kyle.

Answer:

Your question is one asked by many anglers, especially when counts of salmon at the dams are higher but we have to close harvest in parts of the river. You started to answer the question yourself - more fish will return to the Salmon River basin than the Clearwater River basin this year. As of May 18th, we were forecasting less than 4,000 salmon would be available for sport anglers to harvest in the Clearwater River and more than 8,000 would be available for harvest in the Salmon River basin. Also, the water conditions in any year can have a great impact on catch rates and the length of a season. This year Chinook arrived in the lower Clearwater River much earlier than in 2011 and 2012 and fishing conditions (lower flows and clearer water). As a result of those factors early season catch rates have been good in the lower Clearwater River. The portion of the harvest quota allocated to that section of river was caught rather quickly and the river section downstream of Cherrylane Bridge was closed to harvest so as not to impact fisheries in the upstream areas that had caught very few fish by that time. Hopefully salmon returns in future years will be greater and longer seasons will result.