Clearwater

Update on Steelhead Bound for Clearwater River 10/7/14

Hi everybody. I thought I would give you a quick update on the Clearwater River Steelhead fishery just in case you were trying to decide if you wanted to fish the Steelhead harvest opener starting October 15. As of today (10/7/14), over 9,000 hatchery Steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (based on detected PIT tags) that are destined for the Clearwater River. This is about triple of what we saw last year at this same time and 30% more than we saw 2 years ago.  It’s not quite what we had in 2010 and 2011 when around 13,000 fish had passed over Lower Granite Dam by this same time, but that is certainly enough to provide some good fishing.  The numbers of fish passing over Lower Granite Dam and bound for the Clearwater River really picked up the last 5 days, and these fish should start moving into the Clearwater anytime now.  One of the exciting things about the run this year is the vast majority of them are the larger 2-ocean fish unlike last year when many were the smaller 1-ocean fish.  To date, over 25,000 Clearwater River bound hatchery Steelhead have passed over Bonneville Dam, so there are still a lot on their way. This means there will be no need to for emergency rules like we implemented last year to protect brood stock.  In case you were wondering, the Steelhead rules can be viewed using this link (http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/fish/rules/steelhead.pdf).

So there you have it.  Yet another great outdoor activity to do in October. Now you just have decide what to do…..Salmon, Steelhead, Sturgeon, Deer, Elk, upland game birds.  October is such a great time in the Clearwater Region.  - Joe Dupont, Fisheries Manager, Clearwater Region

Snake and Clearwater Steelhead Creel Survey 10/5/14

Fishing on river section 01 (downstream from Salmon River) was really good this past weekend with 7 hours to catch a steelhead. We have documented anglers on the Salmon River around Pine Bar and further up river on river section 11 and 12 (Whitebird Creek to Vinegar Creek.) However, there was very little fish caught over the weekend on this section.  Check harvest data for more details. - Jaime Robertson, Fisheries Technician,Clearwater Region

Snake and Clearwater Fall Chinook Update for 10/7/14

Guided anglers fishing Snake River around Hellar Bar

The weather was beautiful in Lewiston with highs in the low 80’s. The best catch rates this past week were from US Highway 12 Bridge upstream to Hells Canyon Dam. The guides are taking people out to fish at Heller Bar in force. They spend a lot of time fishing in front of the ramp. They drive to the top  of the riffle and drift along the soft water bouncing/drifting bait (usually eggs). It looks like an orchestrated dance between the boats. While we are seeing a lot of effort up the Snake river now we still have quite a few fishermen fishing down in the confluence below the blue bridge (Highway 12 bridge) and up into the Clearwater as far as Memorial Bridge.  You can check harvest data on the Fish and Game website.  -  Jaime Robertson, Fisheries Technician, Clearwater Region

Clearwater Region Salmon Fishery 9/16/14

One nice thing about this time of year is while you are fishing for steelhead you could also catch a fall Chinook Salmon. This year, like the past four years, is supposed to be another good year.  In fact, we are anticipating that the returning Fall Chinook Salmon run to Idaho will be the second largest run we have seen in quite some time (last year was the largest).  We are expecting around 50,000 adults to pass over Lower Granite Dam and what is even more exciting is this year the majority of the adult fish are three-ocean fish that typically range from 18-22 pounds. On average, over 2,000 adult Chinook a day have been passing over Lower Granite Dam for the past week.  Soon we should exceed 3,000 adult Chinook a day. Catch rates for Chinook have been quite slow, but they should pick up with all these fish starting to move in.

One thing all of you should know is that only about 30% of the Chinook passing over Lower Granite Dam are clipped. That is because a lot of wild fish are returning and because around half the hatchery Fall Chinook released in Idaho are clipped (This was done to help build the run when numbers were low).   As such, you will have to catch around 4 unclipped fish for every one clipped fish you can harvest.

A commonly asked question that I get is, “why don’t you allow us to harvest Fall Chinook Salmon upstream of Memorial Bridge?” Because it is asked so often, I thought I would share my answer with all of you.  There are three main reasons.

  • First, only about 25% of the hatchery fish released into the Clearwater River are clipped. Thus, when you mix in the wild fish only about 15% of the fish are clipped.  That doesn’t leave a lot of fish to be harvested.  This clip rate is set until 2017.  Discussion will occur to decide what the new clip rate will be starting in 2018.
  • Second, the Clearwater River is a very popular place to catch-and-release Steelhead, and has been for many years.  Anglers come from all over the Nation to fish this unique fishery.  Opening a Fall Chinook season at the same time as this catch-and-release Steelhead season occurs would cause significant changes in the dynamics of this fishery (more anglers and more boats).  Many Steelhead anglers say they are not in support of this.
  • Finally, the Nez Perce Tribe is largely responsible for rebuilding the Fall Chinook run in Idaho.  Because most of the Clearwater River is in the Nez Perce Tribal Reservation, we need to be considerate of their concerns and interests before moving forward with a fishery that targets Fall Chinook in this area.  We will have discussions with the Tribe about this when we feel the time is appropriate.

This doesn’t mean that we will never have a Fall Chinook Salmon fishery upstream of Memorial Bridge, but it is important to realize there are many things to consider and address before we ever do so. 

Here's additional information on the Clearwater's steelhead fishery this fall.

Well, it is time for me to go.  The elk are bugling and I’m hoping one has my name on it.  - Joe DuPont, Fishery Manager, Clearwater Region

Clearwater Region Steelhead Fishery 9/16/14

Hi everybody, I have been getting bombarded with questions regarding Steelhead and Fall Chinook Salmon runs, so I figured it is about time I give you all an update.  I have been holding off until I had enough information to give you something meaningful. So here you go.

Steelhead
For steelhead there are typically two different runs of fish destined for Idaho that people are interested in. One is the earlier arriving Steelhead that are typically dominated by one-ocean fish and are mainly destined for the Salmon River, the Grand Ronde River, and Hells Canyon Dam. This run of steelhead is commonly referred to as the “A” run. The other is the later arriving fish that is typically dominated by larger two-ocean fish and are predominately destined for the Clearwater River basin.  This run of steelhead is commonly referred to as the “B” run.

By this time of year, typically over 90% of the A run destined for Idaho has passed over Bonneville Dam so we pretty much know what we are going to get. When we look at the number of PIT tagged steelhead destined for Idaho we estimate around 70,000 A run steelhead will pass over Lower Granite Dam. This number will vary some based on what survival is between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam.  This is very similar to what we saw the last two years.

For the B run of steelhead destined for Idaho, typically by this time anywhere from 45 to 60 percent of the run has passed over Bonneville Dam. As such, there is some uncertainty on what is yet to come. However, if the trend holds, it looks like we could get about twice as many fish this year as we saw last year.  Again this is dependent on how the run holds out at the survival we see between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam. The graph below shows how this year’s projected B run compares to previous years.  Many have asked me whether we would be implementing restrictive regulations for steelhead on the Clearwater River this year.  I can tell you that if the run holds true to our projection, no changes to the rules will be necessary.

To date 22,000 steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (since June 1), and over the previous three days at least 1,300 steelhead a day have been passing over the dam. Fishing has been fairly slow (> 20 hrs/fish) in the Snake River and Clearwater River downstream of Memorial Bridge where fish can be harvested.  But expect these catch rates to improve as more fish move into Idaho. Steelhead fishing in the catch-and-release area of the Clearwater River (upstream of Memorial Bridge) has been fairly good with catch rates around 5 to 6 hours a fish.  One interesting this about this year’s A run is that over half the fish that have passed over Lower Granite Dam are two-ocean fish (9-13 lbs). So, although the catch rates haven’t been all that great, people have been pleased with the size of the fish they are catching. Now that the B run is just starting to reach Idaho, the size of the fish should just get bigger.

Here's information on the Clearwater Region's Fall Chinook salmon fishery.   - Joe Dupont, Fisheries Manager, Clearwater Region