Clearwater River

Clearwater & Snake Rivers Weekend Report for 3/8/2014

The Snake River is showing really good catch rates and good water clarity but, it had very little effort this weekend. This past week, the Clearwater and Salmon rivers were running high with rain and snow melt causing the water clarity to be poor and it made fishing difficult. River section 03 mouth of Clearwater to Orofino bridge had no documented anglers and fishing effort was low during the week as well. It looks like some of the shore effort moved over to the North Fork of the Clearwater for somewhat clearer water.  If you get onto the USGS site and look at the water conditions around Stites on the South Fork of the Clearwater it does look as if the water level is peaking so hopefully water conditions will improve within the near future and make for better fishing. Click here for more details.

Photo from Lindsey Bischoff shows spring runoff affecting the North Fork of the Clearwater above Dworshak Dam.

- Jaime Robertson, Fisheries Technician



Fall Chinook Update on Clearwater and Snake Rivers 10/02/12

Section 3 of the Snake River (Couse Crk –Cache Crk) had great catch rates this week and the highest amount of adults and jacks harvested. The guides are hitting Heller Bar hard and bringing in a lot of jacks this past week. Almost every Chinook that our clerks have been able to get their hands on has beeped positive for coded wire. We also saw a left opercule punch on a jack up at Heller Bar. I have not yet received Section 5 data, but as soon as I do I will get it out to everyone. - Jaime Mills, Clearwater Fisheries Technician

Steelhead Creel Numbers 9/30/12


STEELHEAD CREEL NUMBERS For Weekend of 9/30/2012    
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 94 529 9 4 13 41 59 66 CLR
03  Clearwater River - Mouth to Memorial Bridge 114 492 20 14 34 14 25 55 CLR

03A  Clearwater  - Memorial Bridge to Orofino Bridge

14 72 0 7 7 10 -- 55 CLR

Clearwater Steelhead Weekend Creel Numbers 9/8/12

STEELHEAD CREEL NUMBERS  (Unexpanded Estimates*)

        For Weekend of:  9/8/2012

                                                                        NO. ANGLERS                       NO. OF        NO. OF  FISH                                            

                                                                          CHECKED             NO.      FISH KEPT   RELEASED   TOTAL   WATER              

SECTION          RIVER LOCATION                                       HOURS                                                       FISH     TEMP (°F)      

01             Snake R. –

                    Downstream from Salmon R.                      64             268            4                 7                         11               68    

02             Clearwater River –

                    Mouth to Memorial Bridge                          17               71             1                 0                          1                52    

03A          Clearwater River

                    Memorial Bridge to Orofino Bridge **         15              76             0                 0                          0                 54  


    * The values shown are unexpanded sample data and estimates of fishing effort and success.

   ** Before October 15, steelhead fishing upstream of Memorial Bridge of U.S. Highway 12 at Lewiston is catch-and-release only.

  *** CLR = clear; CDY = cloudy; MDY = muddy.


Fishing for Spring Chinook on Clearwater Ends Soon.

Hi all, this will be my last weekly update for spring/summer Chinook.  Last week we documented harvest of Chinook at only one location –the North Fork Clearwater River (35 fish caught).  Catch rates were quite good (5 hrs/fish), but reports are the fish are starting to turn.  For you diehards out there, some have indicate they still are very good smoked. 

We've finally have gotten to the point where it’s time to shut down all Chinook salmon fishing in the Clearwater Region.  At the end of fishing hours on August 5, 2012, the Chinook salmon season will end in the Clearwater Region.  This includes the Clearwater River drainage, the Snake River (Hells Canyon Reach), the lower Salmon River (Park Hole area), and the Little Salmon River.  That being said, you can start harvesting steelhead in the lower Clearwater (downstream of Memorial Bridge) starting Aug 1, and the fall Chinook season will start September 1.  It never ends does it?   What a nice place we live in!

For those of you who like to fish for fall Chinook, details for the season are as follows:

  • The season start September 1 and will continue until further notice or October 31, whichever comes first.
  • The fishery will occur in the Snake River and the lower Clearwater River.
  • The Snake River fishery will open in four sections:
  • From the Washington-Idaho border to Bridge Street bridge.
  • From Bridge Street bridge to the Oregon-Washington border.
  • From the Oregon-Washington border to the mouth of Sheep Creek.
  • From the mouth of Sheep Creek to Hells Canyon Dam.
  • The Clearwater River will open from its mouth to the Memorial Bridge.
  • Fishery managers predict 18,272 adult hatchery origin Chinook salmon will cross Lower Granite Dam (some of these exceed 40 lbs).  It’s possible one of these could exceed the current Idaho state record (54 lbs).
  • Anglers may keep only fish with a clipped adipose fin, evidenced by a healed scar. All salmon with an intact adipose fin must be released.
  • The daily limit is six adult fall Chinook, and the possession limit is 18. There is no season limit on adult fall Chinook. There are no daily or possession limits on jacks and anglers are not required to mark jacks on their salmon permit.
  • Anglers may use only barbless hooks no larger than five-eighths inch from the point to the shank. When the daily, possession limit is reached, the angler must stop fishing for salmon, including catch and-release.
  • Anglers must have a valid Idaho fishing license and salmon permit in possession to fish for salmon. A salmon permit used during the spring or summer season is still valid for the fall season.

I’ll try and get you some updates about steelhead and fall Chinook as we get more details about the run size and catch rates.

On a different note.  For those of you who like catching Kokanee, the fishing at Dworshak has been fantastic.   Some have claimed the fishing is as good as they have ever seen it.  Some are getting daily limits (25 fish) of 12-13 inches, that are fat healthy fish.  The best fishing seems to be upstream of Dent Bridge with many now fishing around Grandad Bridge.  We are trawling Dworshak Reservoir this week, so we will get you some updates shortly on what we find.

I’m know some rumors are starting to go around regarding meeting brood stock needs at Rapid River hatchery so, I thought I’d let you all know the facts. To date, we are holding just over 1,200 Chinook at Rapid River hatchery. Our goal is to collect around 2,200 fish. Typically, by this date we should have collected over 90% of our brood stock, and by the looks of it we will not reach or goal. Before you panic, we do have a backup plan and that is to collect extra brood from the Clearwater River basin (We have done this before). Right now, we are ahead of our brood stock collection goals for most of the hatcheries in the Clearwater Region, so we expect we will get enough extra fish to meet our deficit at Rapid River. Genetically, the Clearwater River fish are fairly similar to Rapid River fish as this stock was used to help restore this run in the past. So, that should not be an issue. We (IDFG and Tribe) will be going in detail over our creel programs to evaluate where we might have underestimated harvest of these fish (assuming that was the problem). Our goals is to continually learn how to better monitor this fishery so these types of issues occur less often.

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

Weekly Chinook Update 5/10/12

I hope you are ready to catch some salmon because they are on their way!! 

Yes, my weekly Chinook update for the Clearwater Region is going to have a much more upbeat tone than last week as the counts over Bonneville have increased dramatically.  In fact, we haven’t seen as many spring Chinook salmon come over Bonneville as we saw yesterday (18,436) since the incredible years of 2001 and 2002.  In case you were wondering, we had a peak one day count of spring Chinook over Bonneville in 2001 of 27,020 fish. 

I’m also happy to report that a whole bunch of these fish are headed to Idaho.  As you can see in the table below (or click on ‘read more’) the estimated non-tribal harvest share for fish headed to Clearwater Region release sites has about doubled since last week.  It’s important to understand though that this estimate is based on the average late timing we have seen in the past.  This run is even later the average late timed run so I expect to see this estimate continue to climb. 

To give you some idea of what I mean, based on the average late timing, about 76% of the hatchery Chinook salmon destined to the Clearwater River and Rapid River would have passed by Bonneville on this date.  Based on the number of Jacks and summer run Chinook that have come over Bonneville and the timing of when this run seems to be peaking, my best guess (for whatever that is worth) is that only about 40-50% of the hatchery Chinook destined to the Clearwater River and Rapid River have passed by Bonneville.  If this is true, our harvest share for the Clearwater River will increase to 7,000 to 9,500 fish and 9,000-12,000 fish for the Riggins area.  I guess only time will tell how good I am with my crystal ball.  I’m still trying to fine tune it.    

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 4,694 6,225 1,200 1,254
Kooskia (Dwrs) 3,680 2,095 3,038 800 574
Kooskia (Clwr) 2,539 1,013 1,270 NA 451
Selway 4,154 1,426 1,902 NA 478
Powell 6,146 1,007 1,351 694 136
SF Clearwater 10,287 2,508 3,384 1,014 629
Total Clearwater R. 57,525 12,742 17,171 3,708 3,522
Rapid River 35,425 13,743 17,095 2,000 4,829
Upper Little Salmon   805 1,001 NA 340
Total Riggins Area 35,425 14,547 18,096 2,000 5,170
Hells Canyon    2,759 3,432 400 967

What does all this mean for Chinook fishing?

1326 Chinook have been reported to come over Lower Granite Dam, which isn’t a ton of fish, but people have started reporting that they are catching fish in the Clearwater River.  Catch rates are slow right now, but the weather and flows are great, and people say it’s just good to be out fishing.  I suspect that in about another week the fishing will really start picking up in the Clearwater.  That large group of fish coming over Bonneville Right now should start hitting the Clearwater River in two to three weeks depending on flows. 

Weekly Chinook Update 5/4/12

Hi everybody, I waited as long as possible before I sent out this week’s weekly Chinook update.  I was hoping run conditions would improve so I would have better news to report.  Unfortunately they haven’t so this is what I  have to report. 

Shortly after I sent the weekly update last week (4-25-12) flows increased dramatically in the Columbia and a slug of dirty water moved through. Not too surprising the number of Chinook salmon moving over Bonneville Dam dropped off dramatically, as increases in flows - especially when they are coupled with dirty water - have consistently been shown to slow down fish migrations. Some telemetry studies have found that some fish will actually move back downstream in these types of events.

What I was fully expecting after these flows dropped and water clarity improved was the fish counts over Bonneville would rebound.  Counts have come back up some, but not to the level I was expecting. This drop in dam counts certainly has influenced our models prediction of what we could expect to come over Bonneville Dam in the future (table below or click 'read more'); however, it is important to realize that these predictions can fluctuate greatly early in the run, which is where we are now. 

I fully expect our projected run total to increase, but just how much is hard to tell. Flows are still high on the Columbia. They are at around 400,000 cfs and the average for this time of year is about 250,000, so this could help explain why fish aren’t coming over Bonneville like expected.  Some other things that lead me to believe we still have a lot more fish to come are, we have only seen a few jacks destined for Idaho come over Bonneville, which indicates we are still early in the run.  Another thing to note is if you look over the timing of runs since the construction of Bonneville Dam (1938), three of the five latest runs on record have occurred in the last 6 years which suggest maybe we are in a new paradigm where late runs are more of the norm. 

I still have heard no reports of anybody catching a Chinook in Idaho which is not too surprising since we have had only 129 come over Lower Granite Dam to date.  I expect we will have our first Chinook harvested by this time next week.   - Joe Dupont, Clearwater Region Fish Manager

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 2,009 4,621 1,200 767
Kooskia (Dwrs) 3,680 855 2,117 800 278
Kooskia (Clwr) 2,539 252 588 NA 208
Selway 4,154 560 1,277 NA 196
Powell 6,146 303 718 694 (91)
SF Clearwater 10,287 886 2,063 1,014 184
Total Clearwater R. 57,525 4,864 11,383 3,708 1,540
Rapid River 35,425 6,359 13,593 2,000 3,628
Upper Little Salmon   383 819 NA 279
Total Riggins Area 35,425 6,742 14,412 2,000 3,907
Hells Canyon    1,276 2,728 400 728


Anniversary fishing!

My first time ever fishing for steelies on the Clearwater, Orofino area. Will be headed that way again for our 5th anniversary. What better way to spend it than on the river and catching great fish!
- Judi Anderson