chinook fishing

Chinook Update on lower Salmon and Little Salmon Fishery 6/20/12

Hi everybody.   I promised to get back to you on the Chinook salmon fishery on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers.  I just wanted to let all of you know that there will be no closures or rule changes for Chinook salmon fishing on the lower Salmon or Little Salmon rivers through this weekend (6/24/13).  To date, it looks like we have harvested around 60% of our harvest share, and we estimate that we have around another 1,500 adult fish to harvest.  We will look at our catch data next Tuesday and determine then whether any closures or rule changes need to be made.  If you could help spread the word, I’d appreciate it.   Until then, have fun fishing.  - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

Chinook Seasons Set on South Fork, Upper Salmon

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission Monday, June 11, approved Chinook fishing seasons on the upper Salmon and South Fork Salmon rivers. The Chinook fishing season opens June 23 and continues until further notice from Fish and Game.

Seasons open June 23 on:

  • South Fork Salmon, lower – From the bridge on Forest Service Road (Lick Creek/East Fork South Fork Road) where it crosses the South Fork Salmon River main stem just upstream of the confluence with the East Fork South Fork Salmon River, upstream about 18 river miles to the Blackmare Creek pack bridge, accessible from the trailhead at Poverty Flat campground.
  • South Fork Salmon, upper – From Blackmare Creek pack bridge, accessible from the trailhead at Poverty Flat campground, upstream about 17 river miles south to a posted boundary about 100 yards downstream from the Idaho Fish and Game South Fork Salmon River weir and trap.
  • Upper Salmon River, Stanley Area – From the State Highway 75 Salmon River bridge about 250 yards upstream of the mouth of the East Fork Salmon River upstream to the posted boundary about 100 yards downstream of the weir and trap at Sawtooth Hatchery south of Stanley.

These waters would remain open until closed by further notice. Fishing hours on the South Fork will be from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on the upper Salmon from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Daily bag limits will be four Chinook, no more than two of which may be adults, and the possession limit will be 12 Chinook, no more than six of which may be adults. Anglers must stop fishing for salmon when daily, possession or season limits of adult salmon are reached, whichever comes first.

The season limit is 20 adult Chinook salmon statewide during 2012 salmon seasons occurring before September 1, 2012.

Adults are Chinook, 24 or more inches long and jacks are less than 24 inches long. Only salmon with a clipped adipose fin, as evidenced by a healed scar, may be kept. All adult Chinook that are caught and kept must be recorded on the angler’s salmon permit.

A brochure will be available before the start of the season. For additional information please consult the 2011-2012 Fishing Seasons and Rules brochure, on the Fish and Game website at:

Weekly Chinook Update 6/13/12

To start, we are proposing NO CLOSURES in the Clearwater drainage or Lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers fisheries this week.

In the Clearwater drainage effort and harvest dropped considerably last week (June 4 – June 10) resulting from increased flows and rainy weather. Last week the adult harvest in the Clearwater drainage was estimated to be less than 200 fish with the majority coming from the North Fork and South Fork Clearwater Rivers. Flows are dropping so hopefully effort and harvest jump back up. For those who fish the South Fork Clearwater the current estimate of hatchery adults that have entered is a little more than 2,000. For a chart on the running progress of the harvest and harvest share for the Clearwater drainage fishery, see below or click on 'read more.'


The adult harvest in lower Salmon around at Riggins and the Little Salmon rivers are finally picking up. Below is running progress of the harvest and harvest share for the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers.

 Again, we are proposing NO CLOSURES in the Clearwater drainage or lower Salmon and Little Salmon river fisheries this week.

There are still a lot a fish to harvest so go get them while you can (just save a few for me). Stay tuned for next week’s updates. - Don Whitney, Clearwater Region Fisheries Biologist


Weekly Chinook Update 6/5/12

Hi everybody.  It looks like people were catching fish about everywhere last week (May 28-June 3, 2012).  Hopefully there are a lot of happy anglers out there.  For those who like to fish the Clearwater River basin, I have some good news.  It appears that survival of migrating adults between Bonneville Dam and McNary Dam was higher than we typically see which has increased our projected harvest share to above 5,000 fish (see table below).  The bad news is survival for the Rapid River fish in this same reach appears lower than expected and has resulted in a lower projected harvest share estimate for these fish.  These differences in survival  are largely based upon when these runs migrated through the fisheries on the Columbia.  Rapid River fish came a little earlier this year which made them more susceptible to harvest.  The final harvest share estimate will be based on the number of fish that pass over Lower Granite Dam, so these harvest shares could still change some.  There was considerable harvest in the Lower Snake River (between Ice Harbor and Lower Granite) so we will have to wait and see how this influences our harvest share. (Click 'read more' for more information.)

Adult Chinook salmon run estimate based on PIT tags passing over McNary Dam
Release group Current number over McNary based on PIT tags Projected total run estimate to McNary based on late run timing Broodstock needs Estimated non-tribal harvest share above LGD
Dworshak 5,040 5,235 1,200 1,739
Kooskia (Dwrs) 2,389 3,460 800 1,161
Kooskia (Clwr) 1,138 1,155 NA 550
Selway 2,043 2,132 NA 594
Powell 1,305 1,360 694 311
SF Clearwater 3,478 3,664 1,014 1,127
Total Clearwater R. 15,395 15,850 3,708 5,482
Rapid River 11,220 11,338 2,000 4,240
Upper Little Salmon 646 653 NA 300
Total Riggins Area 11,867 11,991 2,000 4,540
Hells Canyon  2,253 2,276 400 847

In the Clearwater Region last week, people were catching fish from the mouth all the way to the South Fork Clearwater River.  The only place we didn’t document harvest was in the Lochsa River, although I know they were there.  Some of the best catch rates last week were from Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge, the North Fork, the South Fork, and yesterday I heard fishing was really good in the Kooskia area.  There should still be a couple thousand adult Chinook destined for the Clearwater yet to come over Lower Granite so don’t over look the lower Clearwater as well.  Finally, I have good news for all of you Clearwater anglers.  Because of the higher than expected survival, we will be proposing NO closures this week in the Clearwater River basin.  So go find your favorite place and catch some fish.  We will look at the harvest numbers next week and get back to you. 

Fishing in the lower Salmon River picked up last week which was good to see. Catch rates were not the greatest (20-25 hr/fish), but I certainly talked to some people who limited out over multiple days.  I was surprised to see that more fish were not harvested in the Little Salmon River last week; but after I was informed that high flows made the fishing difficult, it made more sense.  The rain we had over the last couple days brought flows up considerably in the Salmon and Little Salmon which turned the rivers muddy and has turned off fishing.  Based on the flow prediction services, flows should start coming down by Thursday which should mean the fishing will be good this weekend.  Obviously, this will depend on what the water conditions are like.  Let’s hope it stops raining, as the fish are there and ready to be caught.   

Clearwater Weekly Harvest Summary 6/5/12

The North Fork of the Clearwater saw a 41 in/27lb Chinook harvested this weekend.  - Jaime Mils, Clearwater Region Fisheries

Clearwater River Drainage Chinook Salmon Kept     Angler Hours Hours per fish kept  Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
Railroad Bridge to Cherrylane Bridge 224 81 305 5,802 19 9
Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge 258 0 258 4,176 16 57
North Fork Clearwater River 131 0 131 1,686 13 13
Orofino Bridge to Kooskia Bridge 49 5 54 1,317 24 20
Middle Fork Clearwater River 53 3 56 1,248 22 27
South Fork Clearwater River 103 0 103 1,271 12 61
Lochsa River 0 0 0 0 - 0

Clearwater River drainage

Week total

818 89 907 15,500 17 187

Clearwater River drainage

Season total

2,068 129 2,197 45,718 21 564


Chinook Limits Lowered on Clearwater

Hi all, one thing we have continually heard from anglers is that they would rather have lower limits and a longer season – ideally to last through 4th of July weekend.  Before the season began we projected that our harvest share for the Clearwater River drainage would be over 9,000 adult fish, and with that many fish we believed we could have a two-adult fish limit and the season would likely last until the beginning of July.  It is now apparent that non-tribal harvest share for adult Chinook salmon will be about 4,800 adult fish.  If we combine that with the fact that flows and water clarity have been favorable in the Clearwater system allowing for good fishing and high harvest rates, it seems evident that if the limits are not lowered we may not be able to make the season to last as long as the public desires.  As such, we are reducing the limit of adult Chinook salmon to 1 fish in all reaches of the Clearwater River basin except the South Fork Clearwater River and Lochsa River where anglers have had difficulties harvesting fish in the past.  This rule will take effect at the beginning of fishing hours on Saturday June 2nd.  This will change the daily limit to four salmon per day, only one (1) of which may be an adult. 

The Lochsa and South Fork Clearwater rivers will remain at four salmon per day, only two (2) of which may be adults.

I’d appreciate it if you could all help spread the word. 

Thanks for your help, and good luck fishing.

- Joe Dupont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

Weekly Chinook Update 5/29/12

Hi all.  I hope you have all had a chance to get out to and try and catch some fish.  There certainly has been a lot of effort and a bunch of fish caught this past week.

My phone has been inundated with calls this morning and the rumors are running rampant.  So, hopefully I can clear some things up for you with this update.

First of all, the non tribal harvest shares for adult Chinook salmon are listed below (4,724 for the Clearwater and 5,095 for the Riggins area).  They haven’t changed much since last week, but survival appears to be higher for the migrating salmon between Bonneville and Lower Granite than expected. We may see our harvest share increase some in the future, but not more than a couple hundred fish.  Regardless, there are a lot of fish out there to catch. (click 'read more' for chart and more informaiton.)

Adult Chinook salmon run estimate based on PIT tags passing over Bonneville Dam
Release group Bonneville pre-season forecast Current number over Bonneville based on PIT tags Projected total run estimate to Bonneville based on late run timing Broodstock needs Estimated non-tribal harvest share above LGD
Dworshak 30,720 7,029 7,038 1,200 1,504
Kooskia (Dwrs) 3,680 2,984 3,195 800 625
Kooskia (Clwr) 2,539 1,583 1,576 NA 563
Selway 4,154 2,664 2,690 NA 868
Powell 6,146 1,568 1,589 694 222
SF Clearwater 10,287 4,272 4,315 1,014 942
Total Clearwater R. 57,525 20,099 20,403 3,708 4,724
Rapid River 35,425 16,825 16,872 2,000 4,760
Upper Little Salmon   981 984 NA 335
Total Riggins Area 35,425 17,807 17,856 2,000 5,095
Hells Canyon    3,378 3,387 400 952

Fishing was hot and heavy in the Clearwater River last week and made for a great Memorial Weekend for many anglers.  As of the end of Sunday we had harvested about 26.5% of our overall harvest share for the Clearwater River drainage.  Most of those fish were caught in Lewiston area (mainstem Clearwater from Cherryland Bridge upstream to Orofino Bridge.)  In fact, this is the most fish that I have seen caught in this river section in one week since I have been here (since 2008).  I fully expect the number of fish caught in this section to drop off this week as pressure has declined notably since Memorial Weekend and many of the fish have pushed on upstream. 

Because of this large harvested about 17% of the overall harvest share has now been taken in this section. Remember we are shooting for about 25% of the harvest to occur in this area which leaves another 380 adult Chinook salmon to harvested in this section.  We think this is enough fish to keep this section open through at least this weekend.  We will look at the numbers after the weekend to see where we are at, but it may not last much longer than that if harvest doesn’t drop down some.  This week I fully expect to see more harvest all the way upstream to the Kooskia area and maybe even in the South Fork Clearwater. 

Weekly Chinook Update 5/24/12

Hi all, it looks like I need help with my ability to forecast the run size.  Unfortunately, I think we have gotten to the point where most of the adult Chinook salmon destined for the Clearwater Region have come over Bonneville Dam.  This means our harvest share will likely be somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 adult fish for the Clearwater River drainage and the Rapid River area.  Check out the table below (or click 'read more') to see where these fish are headed for based on PIT tags we have detected at Bonneville Dam.  

Adult Chinook salmon run estimate based on PIT tags passing over Bonneville Dam
Release group Bonneville pre-season forecast Current number over Bonneville based on PIT tags Projected total run estimate to Bonneville based on late run timing Broodstock needs Estimated non-tribal harvest share above LGD
Dworshak 30,720 6,908 7,025 1,200 1,501
Kooskia (Dwrs) 3,680 2,938 3,166 800 616
Kooskia (Clwr) 2,539 1,583 1,590 NA 568
Selway 4,154 2,624 2,686 NA 848
Powell 6,146 1,568 1,602 694 226
SF Clearwater 10,287 4,177 4,294 1,014 935
Total Clearwater R. 57,525 19,799 20,363 3,708 4,694
Rapid River 35,425 16,689 16,783 2,000 4,730
Upper Little Salmon R.   974 980 NA 333
Total Riggins Area 35,425 17,664 17,763 2,000 5,063
Hells Canyon    3,350 3,369 400 946

Fishing effort certainly picked up in the Clearwater River last week with most of it occurring in the Lewiston Area.  With most of the effort occurring there, it is not too surprising that this is where most of the fish were caught.  As time progresses we will see more and more fish caught upstream.  The table below shows where these fish were caught on a weekly basis.  One thing all of you can track is as we add on each weeks harvest onto the table below, you will be able to determine how close we are getting to potential closures for the different river sections.  Our target adult harvest for each river section is listed in the bottom part of the table below.  In case you are wondering how we came up with these different target amounts of harvest for each river section, it came from all of you based on input in public meetings, creel surveys and mail surveys.  It is important for all of you to realize that these are only targets and we may need to adjust them based on where the fish are destined and how harvest is going in the different river sections.  For example, if anglers in the lower river (Lewiston area) cannot harvest 25% of the fish, we will obviously allow more harvest upstream; or if a very high percentage of the adults are destined to a certain stream section, we may be required to allow more harvest there to get at these fish.  At this point, there is no point for you to worry, just get out there and catch more fish.  Now is the time to be fishing the Clearwater River.