Weekly Chinook Update 5/16/12

Hi all.  It appears my crystal ball has some glitches in it that I need to work out.  Our projected harvest share (based on counts at Bonneville Dam) for adult Chinook salmon for the entire  Clearwater River basin increased by about 1,200 fish from last week, which is great, but I’m not sure we will get to that 7,000 to 9,500 range that my crystal ball predicted (see table below or click 'read more' for estimates). 

Fish destined for the Clearwater River are still coming over Bonneville in good numbers and the Jacks are just starting to arrive which may indicate there still are a bunch to come.  Regardless, we are in the makings for one of the best Chinook seasons in the Clearwater River since 2002.   Based on our creel surveys, we estimated that 16 adult Chinook salmon were harvested from the Clearwater River last week.  I’ve already heard of more fish harvested this week, and the counts are really starting to pick up over Lower Granite Dam.  This weekend should be a great time to be fishing in the lower Clearwater.  These fish will start pushing further upstream later in the week.

Where my crystal ball seems to really have had some problems is with predicting the run headed for the Riggins area.  The projected harvest share has not changed since last week (about 5,000 adult fish) and based on the number of PIT tagged fish coming over Bonneville it makes it seem that the run over Bonneville Dam is starting to be wind down.  However, a harvest share of over 5,000 adults is nothing to scoff about.  We’ve had some great fisheries in the Riggins area with fewer fish than that.  We also don’t have the same snow pack as last year, so we shouldn’t expect the same continuous high flows that can cause havoc with our fisheries.  Right now flows are projected to be in the 45,000 to 55,000 range for the next week.  This may or may not influence fish movement depending on how dirty the water gets.  Right now two-thirds of the fish crossing over Lower Granite Dam are headed for Rapid River and they have been passing over the Dam for about two weeks now.  That means these fish should just start to be arriving in the Riggins Area fishery.  We think the slide (a big rapid on the lower Salmon River) can cause delays once flows start exceeding 50,000 cfs so this may slow down these fishes travel times.  I hope to hear of the first fish being caught in Riggins by this weekend or a little bit later in this area. 

I also expect somebody to start catching fish in the Hells Canyon Fishery by this weekend as well. 

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.