Clearwater River

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