Clearwater Region's Spring Chinook Weekly Harvest Report (7/6/15)

Very little effort was documented this past week. The Lochsa did not have any documented Chinook anglers. The anglers that were checked in this area were Cutthroat fishing. The Snake at HCD tailrace also saw effort drop and only one Jack was documented as harvested. Check Harvest Report for more details. - Jaime Robertson,
Senior Fisheries Technician, Clearwater Region

Upper Salmon River Chinook Fishery Report (7/6/15)

Chinook angler effort was lower in all upper Salmon River location codes this past week, but catch rates remained good. Once again the majority of anglers were found in location code 19, near Stanley. Anglers near Stanley averaged 20 hours per Chinook caught and 42 hours per Chinook kept. Fewer anglers were observed fishing downstream of Ellis in location code 17, but those who did averaged 33 hours per Chinook caught and 47 hours per Chinook kept which were the best catch rates of season so far in the Ellis area. Currently, the Salmon River is flowing at 1,240 cfs through the town of Salmon which is 34% of average for today’s date. As of Sunday, July 5th, 700 hatchery adult Chinook had returned to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery and as of Thursday, July 2nd, 914 hatchery adult Chinook had returned to the Pahsimeroi Hatchery. Additionally, on Thursday, July 2nd, 86 hatchery adult Chinook from the Pahsimeroi Hatchery were released at the 11-mile boat ramp to provide anglers a second chance at harvesting them. Salmon River location codes 18 and 19, from 100 yards upstream of the Pahsimeroi River to 100 yards downstream of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery weir and trap, are now closed to the harvest of adult Chinook. The harvest of jack Chinook salmon, those under 24 inches, will continue until further notice. Anglers may harvest up to 4 adipose-clipped Chinook salmon under 24 inches per day and any salmon 24 inches or longer must be immediately released. Any anglers who harvest 4 jacks in a day or have 12 jacks in possession must discontinue fishing. - Brent Beller, Fisheries Technician, Salmon Region

Clearwater Region Chinook Update (5/7/14)

First, let me tell you what we know about the number of Chinook Salmon we are projecting to come to the Clearwater Region.  Last week we had some exciting times when over a three day period over 40,000 Chinook Salmon passed over Bonneville Dam.  Since then the counts have dropped back down, but that spike in numbers caused our projected non-tribal harvest share to increase to about 4,000 adult fish in the Clearwater drainage and about 6,3000 adult fish for the Rapid River run.  If you recall, last week the projected harvest share was around 3,400 for the Clearwater drainage and 4,500 for the Rapid River run.   At this point I am not expecting any large changes in harvest share as typically by this time around 75% of the run of fish heading to the Clearwater Region has passed over Bonneville Dam.  If you are wondering how these harvest shares compare to previous years.  This is very similar to what we saw in the Clearwater River basin in 2008 and 2009-2012.  Last year the harvest share in the Clearwater Basin was 640 fish.  So this will be a marked improvement over that.  For the Rapid River run, last year the harvest share was 2,100 fish and the year before that  it was  4,500 fish.  As such this year will be an improvement over the previous two years.  All in all, I think we are in store for a very good season.

Clearwater River Basin Fishery
The table below has about everything you need to know about adult harvest of Chinook Salmon in the Clearwater River basin, and I will update it every week for you.  It shows how many fish we estimated were harvested each week and where.  It shows our harvest share and how many fish are left. Finally, it shows how the public has indicated they would like the harvest share allocated to the different river reaches and how much harvest remains in each of those areas.  As we get close to reaching these different target amounts you can expect the fisheries to close in those areas (or at least the adult harvest).  Last week we estimated 21 adult Chinook Salmon were harvested in the Clearwater River drainage, all  near Lewiston.  Go to harvest data for more details.

Counts over Lower Granite Dam the last couple days were around 1,300 and 3,000 fish which is good.  Flows are also looking good, so those fish should spread upriver fast.  Expect the fishing to really pick up from here on out.

Rapid River Fishery
We did not see any harvest of fish last week on the Rapid River run, and as such I did not include a harvest summary table below.  However, once harvest begins I will display a similar table as above for this fishery as well.  I can tell you though that the first fish showed up at Rapid River Hatchery two days ago so it would surprise me if some fish are caught this weekend.  Flows are looking good right now so those fish coming over Lower Granite Dam now should start being caught in a week.

Hells Canyon Fishery
The Hells Canyon fishery is often one of the first to start up.  In fact, our creel crew check one adult last week and we estimated a harvest of three fish.  Expect this fishery to pick up in a week as well.

Well the fishery is upon us.  I hope you all are getting your gear ready as if the fish aren’t in the area you like to fish now, they should be there soon. - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager


Salmon River - Weekend Steelhead Creel (3/3/13)

This weekend on the upper Salmon River, the number of anglers increased, but compared to the week before, the fishing was not as good. The best catch rate was found in section 18 where anglers averaged 11 hours per steelhead. Section 19, with a catch rate of 12 hours per steelhead was the second best, while sections 15 and 16 were at 15 and 16 hours per steelhead caught, respectively. Fishing within sections 14 and 15 was hindered by muddy water conditions due to the Deadwater ice jam breaking apart.

As of yesterday (3rd) the ice jam had receded nearly to Deadwater and most likely it will break up entirely sometime within the next few days. Anglers should use caution when fishing on, or next to, the bank ice left behind by the ice jam. This weekend, an angler fishing off of a large piece of bank ice ended up in the river when the ice collapsed and catapulted him into water 8-10 feet deep. During the next couple of weeks many more of these large blocks of bank ice will collapse into the river as they melt, and anglers should keep that in the back of their minds when choosing a safe spot to fish from.   - Brent Beller, Fisheries Technician, Idaho Fish and Game

SALMON RIVER - STEELHEAD CREEL NUMBERS   Weekend of 3/3/13            
14 Salmon R. - South Fork Salmon R. to Middle Fork Salmon R 29 199.5 3 1 4 50 67 32 MDY
15 Salmon R. - Middle Fork Salmon R. to North Fork Salmon R. 42 205 7 7 14 15 29 32 MDY
16 Salmon R. - North Fork Salmon R. to Lemhi R. 70 433 16 11 27 16 27 33 CDY
17 Salmon R. - Lemhi R. to Pahsimeroi R. 64 186.5 5 6 11 17 37 36 CDY
18 Salmon R. - Pahsimeroi R. to East Fork Salmon R. 22 74 3 4 7 11 25 36 CDY
19 Salmon R. - upstream from East Fork Salmon R. 8 35 2 1 3 12 18 36 CLR

Weekend (3/2/13) Creel Numbers for Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers.

Catch rates were decent this week on the Salmon River. - Seth Crevison. Fisheries Technician, Idaho Fish and Game

STEELHEAD CREEL NUMBERS   Weekend 3/2/2013                
2 Snake R. - Salmon R. to Hells Canyon Dam 5 23 2 1 3 8 12 37 CLR
3 Clearwater River - mouth to Orofino Bridge 102 694 18 13 31 22 39 38 CLR
5 North Fork Clearwater R. 29 172 2 0 2 86 86 41 CLR
7 South Fork Clearwater R. 94 381 3 15 18 21 127 38 CLR
11 Salmon R. - Whitebird Cr. to Little Salmon R. 8 25 1 1 2 12 25 38 CLR
12 Salmon R. - Little Salmon R. to Vinegar Cr. 93 412 19 12 31 13 22 38 CLR
13 Salmon R. - Vinegar Cr. to South Fork Salmon R. 14 117 3 2 5 23 39 38 CLR
20 Little Salmon R. 12 12 0 0 0 -- -- 34 CLR

Steelhead and Chinook Salmon Update

Hi all, seeing I haven’t provided you an update recently,  I thought I would let you know how the steelhead season is progressing and what we have forecasted for the upcoming spring/summer Chinook salmon season.


If you are wondering how steelhead fishing in the Clearwater has been recently, it actually has been fairly good with catch rates averaging less than 10 hrs/fish during most weeks. Fishing in the North Fork has, on the other hand, has been unusually slow. It should start picking up as the Dworshak fish start moving upstream. We haven’t been monitoring the Snake or Salmon rivers recently, so I don’t have updates for you on those rivers.

Some rumors were being spread that, due to the lower run size for Dworshak Hatchery bound steelhead, IDFG would be reducing limits or shutting down the steelhead season to make sure brood needs will be met.  Well, let me assure you, this is a rumor and we have no intentions of changing the steelhead season.  We are monitoring the number of steelhead ascending Lower Granite Dam that are bound for Dworshak Hatchery as well as how many of these fish are being harvested.   This is what I can tell you.  At the end of December, we estimated that around 13,000 hatchery released steelhead bound for the Clearwater River basin have passed over Lower Granite Dam.  By the time the run is over this spring, we suspect around 15,000 Clearwater River bound hatchery fish will have passed over Lower Granite Dam.  To give you some perspective, runs of Clearwater River hatchery fish have ranged from 20,000 to 57,000 fish over the last 11 years.   

Of the hatchery steelhead returning to the Clearwater River this year, we are anticipating that around 5,400 of these are destined for Dworshak Hatchery (based on PIT tag readings).  The importance of knowing this is, these are the fish that are collected for brood stock that will be used to produce runs for future years.  To fill our hatcheries we need to collect at least 1,500 of these fish.  That means if 5,400 fish are destined for Dworshak Hatchery and we need to collect at least 1,500 for brood stock, then the rest (3,900) can be harvested through tribal and non-tribal fisheries.  The table in the blue box below shows these numbers as well as the number of non-tribal fish that have been harvested based on our creel surveys.  As you can see on this table, we estimate that 914 Dworshak Hatchery bound steelhead have been harvested by non-tribal anglers through December.  Based on discussions with tribal biologists, tribal harvest has been considerably less than that.  However, if we assume the tribal and non-tribal harvest has been identical and harvest rates continue at similar monthly averages, we will still have ample fish for brood needs (see hypothetical example below in orange box).  So, as you can see, there appears to be plenty of fish available for harvest and brood needs, even if tribal harvest  has matched the non-tribal harvest.  We will continue to monitor harvest and coordinate with the tribe, and if something very unexpected happens we will let you know. 

Chinook Forecast

As most of you are aware, every year around this time we estimate how many spring/summer Chinook salmon will be returning to Idaho based on the number of Jacks that returned last year.  The table below show these estimates.  Remember these are only estimates, and during some years we have been off considerably.  Based on these estimates, returns of adult spring/summer Chinook salmon will be lower than we have seen the last five years.  The next step is to present these return estimates to the public (all of you and others) and discuss the best way to structure a fishery.  We may have to be a little creative for some of these fisheries.  My thoughts, at this point, are we will have public meetings for the Clearwater and Rapid River fisheries in the beginning of March to discuss this with all of you.  Shortly after that, we would provide our recommendations to the commission for how we would like to structure our fisheries.  Due to consistent low turnouts at some of the past public meetings, I will likely only have them in Lewiston, Orofino, and Riggins this year.  One of the things we will do this years to supplement the input we get at the public meetings is also send out questionnaire to all of your through this e-mail list.  I’ll let all of you know when the dates and locations of the public meetings have been determined.

I'll be back in touch soon.  I hope your winter is going well. 

- Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

Snapshot of Steelhead Fishing on the Clearwater and Snake 12/16/12

This past weekend on the main stem of the Clearwater below Orofino bridge catch rates were great and to keep they were OK.  We are starting to see more anglers out on the South Fork and they are catching a few fish. This past Friday a nice bright 36 in. steelhead was brought in by Lenore. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture. However, the angler did get a good laugh at my expense when I face planted it on the boat launch. - Jaime Mills, Clearwater Region

STEELHEAD CREEL NUMBERS For Weekend of 12/16/2012    
River Location No. Anglers Checked No. of Hours No. of Fish Kept No. of Fish Released Total Fish Hours/Fish Water
caught kept Temp (F) Conditions
01  Snake River - Downstream from Salmon River 4 14 0 0 0 -- -- 36 CLR
03  Clearwater River - Mouth to Memorial Bridge 69 393 16 26 42 9 25 34 CLR
04  Clearwater River - mouth to Orofino Bridge. 10 36 3 3 6 6 12 34 CLR
05   North Fork Clearwater R 16 92 0 0 0 -- -- 34 CLR
07  South Fork Clearwater R. 14 37 1 2 3 12 37 CLR CD
10    Salmon R. - downstream from Whitebird Cr. 4 12 4 1 5 2 3 36 CLR

Steelhead Fishing Opportunities 10/31/12

Hi everybody, I thought I’d let you know about some steelhead fishing opportunities that will be occurring in the Boise area.  We will be stocking around 250 steelhead that were trapped at Hells Canyon Dam in the Boise River on Thursday, November 1 from Glenwood Bridge to Barber Park.  I have been told the steelhead fishing can be quite good at times after these stocking efforts.  Plans are to also stock a similar number of fish later in November.  So, those of you in the Boise area who don’t like to travel, this might be a good fishing opportunity for you.

Seeing I’ve got your attention (well hopefully I do), I thought I’d also give you an update on the steelhead fishing in the Clearwater River.  As I suspected, the fishing effort has been very low for the first two weeks after the general opener.  In fact, I can’t remember seeing so few people fishing as I saw on the first two days of the season.  As a result, there were fewer people competing over the fish that were in the river and catch rates have been good (about 10/hrs fish).   With the recent rains, the river flows have shot up and turned the river dirty, but once flows settle back down I suspect a bunch more new fish will have moved into the system.  So plan accordingly, the fishing could get quite good.   Based on PIT tags, about 22,000 Clearwater bound hatchery steelhead have passed over Bonneville Dam this year.  So far, only about 11,000 of them have made it past Lower Granite.  Let’s hope this increase in flows gets those fish moving.  I’m betting on it. 

Fishing in the Snake and Salmon has also been decent at around 10 hrs/fish, so there are plenty of opportunities out there.

Don’t forget, fall chinook season is over tomorrow, November 1.

Talk to you all later.     - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

Update on Fall Chinook and Steelhead Fishing 9/05/12

The good news is that water temperatures are finally starting to cool down in the Snake River and higher numbers of steelhead are now starting to pass over Ice Harbor Dam (first dam on the Snake River).  You should expect those fish to start entering Idaho in about a week, so get ready if you like to fish the lower Clearwater or Snake Rivers. 

Now for the bad news.  Based on the number of steelhead we are seeing come over Bonneville Dam, it appears that the A-run steelhead (generally one-ocean fish that come in earlier) will come in lower than expected.  We are projecting that about 68,000 hatchery A-run fish will enter Idaho.  If you are wondering whether this is good or not, I can tell you that we have not seen this low of return since 1999.  Right now it is too early to project the B-run (generally two-ocean fish that come in later), but it doesn’t look good for them as well.  Early models are projecting that about 12,000 hatchery “B” fish will enter Idaho, but this could change considerably as it is still early.  If this comes true, it will also be the lowest B-run we have seen since 1999.  We aren’t sure why these runs are coming in so low as it seemed that river conditions were good during their out migration and ocean conditions when they entered salt water didn’t seem to be poor.  I obviously have much more to learn about steelhead survival.    I hope that this forecast won’t discourage you from fishing as often what you will see in these types of situations is lower fishing pressure which often results in higher catch rates.  In fact, I can recall one of my most memorable steelhead fishing days occurred in the 1990’s when steelhead numbers were down. 

On a good note, it appears the Fall Chinook are coming in as projected (over 18,000 to lower Granite Dam) which is good.  So, if you are having trouble catching steelhead, give Fall Chinook a try.  Most of these fish will be less than 15 pounds,  but every year we see several come over Lower Granite dam that exceed 45 pounds.  Those people who seem to be successful are fishing deep (using a downrigger or heavier weight) with a flasher and a super bait or plug cut herring.  Good numbers of Fall Chinook should start hitting Idaho in about a week as well.

Have a great Fall, and I will talk to you later.  - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager