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

Clearwater Weekly Chinook Update 7/19/12

Hi all.  In the Clearwater River drainage fish are still being caught in the North Fork Clearwater River (we estimated that 87 adults were caught) and the catch rates were extremely good (4 hrs/fish).  We also observed some Chinook being caught on the Lochsa River with catch rates at 40 hrs/fish.  Other than those locations, we didn’t document any harvest.  It looks like Chinook fishing has all but ended on its own in the Riggins area and at Hells Canyon Dam. Very few people were observed fishing for salmon and we did not document a single fish being caught.

Some have asked whether I would be providing updates on any of the other fisheries in the Clearwater Region – especially the steelhead fishery.  Well, my goal is to provide periodic updates on our other fisheries as well, although not on a weekly basis.    

Have a good week.  - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

Clearwater Weekly Chinook Update (7/9/12)

Many of you have stopped fishing for Chinook in the Clearwater Region, but I know some of you still are so I am going to keep providing these updates until we shut down the season.

Most of the effort and catch we see right now in the Clearwater is near the release sites. Fishing in the North Fork continues to be good, and based on the fish I saw last week, it appears that many of them still have orange meat.  Some are starting to turn though.  What is interesting is that the catch rates we saw last week on the North Fork Clearwater (5 hrs/fish) was the best we have seen all year in any river section in the Clearwater River drainage.  So if you still want to catch a Chinook, you have a good opportunity.

Clearwater River Drainage        
  Chinook Salmon Kept Angler Hours Hours per fish kept  Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
Railroad Bridge to Cherrylane Bridge 0 0 0 0 - 0
Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge 0 0 0 0 - 0
North Fork Clearwater River 73 6 79 665 8 30
Orofino Bridge to Kooskia Bridge 0 0 0 9 - 0
Middle Fork Clearwater River 4 0 4 142 36 0
South Fork Clearwater River 3 0 3 435 145 3
Lochsa River 0 0 0 171 - 0
Clearwater River drainage          Week total 80 6 86 1422 17 33
Clearwater River drainage         Season total 3371 204 3575 76294 21 1110

Fishing in the Riggins area has really dropped off. Almost all the fish caught last week were in the Little Salmon with catch rates being about 20 hrs/fish. 

Believe it or not, the fishing picked back up below Hells Canyon Dam as we estimated that 18 adult Chinook were harvested last week. The fishing pressure was light so we actually estimated the best catch rate of the season below the dam last week at 11 hr/fish.

Snake River at Hells Canyon Dam Chinook Salmon Kept Angler Hours Hours per fish kept Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
  18 0 18 201 11 0
Snake River Season Total 182 16 198 6268 32 10

For you die hards out there, even though the season is winding down, we are seeing some of the best catch rates of the year in certain locations.

Clearwater Region Weekly Chinook Harvest Summary 7/02/12

Section 3 on the North Fork of the Clearwater had the best catch rates this week and the most fish harvested. Everywhere else in the Clearwater Region saw a lot less fish harvested. It seems like effort is starting to wind down.  - Jaime Mills, 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 0 0 0 38 - 0
Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge 6 0 6 182 30 0
North Fork Clearwater River 94 7 101 1155 11 22
Orofino Bridge to Kooskia Bridge 0 0 0 69 - 0
Middle Fork Clearwater River 16 0 16 348 22 0
South Fork Clearwater River 6 0 6 949 158 22
Lochsa River 0 0 0 735 - 12
Clearwater River drainage Week total 122 7 129 3476 27 56
Clearwater River drainage Season total 3291 198 3489 74872 21 1077


Lower Salmon River Chinook Salmon Kept Angler Hours Hours per fish kept Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
Rice Creek Bridge to Hammer Creek Boundary 28 2 30 915 31 12
Hammer Creek Boat Ramp to Time Zone Bridge 34 3 37 876 24 61
Time Zone Bridge to Mouth of Short's Creek 17 2 19 803 42 2
Short's Creek to Vinegar Creek 0 0 0 315 - 0
Salmon River        Week Total 79 7 86 2909 34 75
Salmon River      Season Total 2312 234 2546 54468 21 615


Weekly Clearwater Chinook Update 6/26/12

Hi everybody, it’s time for the weekly Chinook update (6/26/12).  Harvest shares for the Clearwater River, Riggins area and Hells Canyon are shown below and are not much different than last week. 

Harvest dropped off some in the Clearwater Region from last week, but there are still areas where the fishing is good.  Catch rates were below 10 hr/fish for both the North Fork Clearwater and Kooskia hatchery area.  One of our creel clerks told me how surprised she was with how light the fishing pressure was in the Kooskia area last week especially since the fishing was good.  In fact, in her break from work, she managed to go down to the rive and catch two Chinook.  Surprisingly, catch dropped substantially in the South Fork Clearwater last week even though our PIT tag array indicates around 3,000 hatchery fish have moved into this river with fish still trickling in.  We still have a lot of fish remaining on the non-tribal harvest share, so there will be NO closures or rule changes in the Clearwater River drainage this week.   Based on the way the fishery is progressing, it looks like the season could last through July in the Clearwater drainage.

Clearwater River Drainage Chinook Salmon Kept Angler Hours Hours per fish kept Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
Railroad Bridge to Cherrylane Bridge 0 0 0 115 - 0
Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge 7 0 7 575 82 26
North Fork Clearwater River 150 2 152 1730 11 33
Orofino Bridge to Kooskia Bridge 2 1 3 163 54 0
Middle Fork Clearwater River 82 7 89 852 10 18
South Fork Clearwater River 28 4 32 1468 46 27
Lochsa River 0 0 0 0 - 0
Clearwater River drainage Week Total 269 14 283 4903 17 104
Clearwater River drainage Season Total 3169 191 3360 71396 21 1021

Harvest dropped in the Riggins area last week after two weeks of good catch rates.  Surprisingly, the best catch rates were not in the Park Hole area or the Little Salmon River last week.  They were actually in the Salmon River downstream of Time Zone Bridge and upstream of Shorts Creek.   I think a combination of lower effort and the presence of upriver bound fish made the fishing good in these areas.  There certainly are many fish around the Riggins area, as they continue to flow into the hatchery.  Sometimes it seems that later in the run Chinook just don’t bite as much which can cause catch rates to decline.  Despite this, it seems that there are always groups of anglers that figure it out and catch lots of fish.  Maybe you are one of those anglers?  To date we have harvested about 83% of the Rapid River run which means we have over 700 adult fish still left to harvest (see table below).  Based on these numbers, there will be NO closures or rule changes proposed through Four of July for the lower Salmon or Little Salmon rivers.  Be sure to check in with us after the 4th to see if we have any changes in mind.

Lower Salmon River Chinook Salmon Kept     Angler Hours Hours per fish kept Unclipped salmon released
  Adults Jacks Total      
Rice Creek Bridge to Hammer Creek Boundary 44 5 49 910 19 57
Hammer Creek Boat Ramp to Time Zone Bridge 127 22 149 3175 21 141
Time Zone Bridge to Mouth of Short's Creek 109 6 115 3700 32 15
Short's Creek to Vinegar Creek 54 4 58 1242 21 17
Salmon River Week Total 334 37 371 9027 24 230
Salmon River Season Total 2233 227 2460 51559 21 540

People seem to have lost interest in the Hells Canyon fishery as we documented no harvest in this area last week.  That being said, I would have to guess that the fishing pressure will be light next week  and that there should be plenty of areas to fish if you plan on visiting.

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

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.