salmon fishing

Clearwater Region Weekly Chinook Update (5/20/15)

Hi everybody, this is Joe Dupont, Clearwater Fisheries Manager. It's time for my weekly update on the Clearwater Region’s Chinook Salmon fisheries (5/20/15). Before I get into the details, for those who fish the Clearwater River, please be sure to read the closure notice and read the section below on the Clearwater River Fishery, as another river section will be closing at the end of fishing hours on Friday.

Harvest Share

By now the run of Chinook Salmon destined for the Clearwater Region has almost all passed over Bonneville Dam.  In fact, the vast majority of these fish have also passed over Lower Granite Dam, the last of the dams they must pass over before entering Idaho. For that reason, the table below shows how many fish have passed over Lower Granite Dam (based on PIT tags), and what our harvest shares will be based on these estimates. It is important to know that not all the fish destined for the Clearwater Region have passed over Lower Granite Dam, so the run estimates and harvest shares listed below are minimums. One of the good things that happened this year is the survival of these salmon as they swim from Bonneville Dam to Lower Granite Dam has been higher than normal. I suspect this has something to do with the lower and clearer flows than normal.  As indicated earlier, these flows allow the fish to migrate faster and farther from the river’s edge which makes them less susceptible to anglers, nets, and predators. Higher survival means more fish for us to catch.   

Clearwater River Fishery

Before I get into how the fishing was in the Clearwater River basin last week, I want to point out the harvest share I used on the table below (6,500 adult fish) is what I believe is a conservative estimate.  There are still more fish on the way so don’t be surprised if we end up with an even higher harvest share than this.  Last week the fishing was excellent in the Clearwater Basin, with catch rates dropping below 10 hrs/fish in many areas. With this good of fishing, it is not too surprising that a lot of fish were harvested last week.  In fact, fishing was so good in section 2 last week that we will be closing it down to ALL salmon fishing at the end of fishing hours on Friday May 22, 2015 (see attachment). Once again, we will not leave this section of river open to Jack fishing due to their poor return.  Some people have been asking why we can’t leave river sections open to Jack fishing. The reason is that with so few Jacks coming back, we will be able to reach our harvest share on them without leaving river sections open longer.  In case you were wondering, the best catch rates that we saw were in sections 2 and 5 last week.  For those of you who like to fish the South Fork Clearwater River, I can tell you over 2,000 fish have already passed our PIT tag array in that river and more are on their way.  For those of you who want to salmon fish for memorial weekend in the Clearwater River drainage, there should be some excellent fishing for you in the areas that remain open to fishing. 

Rapid River Run

As expected, effort and harvest turned on last week for the Rapid River run. Fish were caught throughout the system with the highest catch rates actually occurring in section 1. Catch rates were also decent in the Park Hole (section 3) and Little Salmon River (13 hrs/fish). It did slow down on Sunday as the main Salmon River turned dirty due to the rains we had; but reports are that it has cleaned up some and harvest has picked up once again. Flows are supposed to climb on the Salmon River through Memorial Weekend, but they are not supposed to climb quickly. Let’s hope that it won’t cause water clarity to diminish substantially which can slow down fish movement and harvest. Once again, the harvest share I used below is an estimate, but I suspect that it won’t be too far from what we end up with. The message is, there are a lot of fish on their way to provide some excellent fishing in the next couple weeks. 

Hells Canyon Fishery

Fishing below Hells Canyon Dam was good last week as we estimated that 161 fish were harvested (256 for the season), and catch rates were 9 hrs/fish. We started trapping fish below Hells Canyon Dam for brood stock and other purposes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if catch rates dropped some, but there still should be a lot of fish in the river to catch.

Memorial weekend is almost here. I suspect many of you are planning a salmon fishing trip, just as my family is. I hope to see some of you out on the river.  Good luck fishing.  -  Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager


Clearwater Coho 11/10/2014

This past weekend on the North Fork of the Clearwater (river sect 05) a 33in Coho was caught. The fish was weighed at Harvest Foods in Orofino at 11.8lbs with a girth of 17inches. Check Harvest Reports for more salmon havest information from last week.  - Jaime Robertson, Fisheries Technician, Clearwater Region

Cleawater and Snake River Weekend Creel Surveys 11/02/14

This past Saturday on the Clearwater was wet. It rained off and on most of the day. We are seeing more anglers fish from Orofino and up. Drift boats are dropping in at the Kooskia boat ramp or Button Beach and drifting down to Kamiah. This past week an angler caught a 18lb. Steelhead on the North Fork. Go to Steelhead Harvest Report and Coho Salmon Harvest Report for more details.  - Jaime Robertson, Fisheries Technician, Clearwater Region

Steelhead and Chinook Report in Cleawater 10/13/14

Clearwater Region Fall 2014

Anglers are spreading out to fish in the Clearwater region. 185 anglers were checked this past weekend on the Salmon and Little Salmon River. 60 steelhead were caught over the weekend with just under 19/hr catch rates on the Salmon and Little Salmon River.

Of the 178 anglers that were checked on river section 01 of the Snake River this past weekend 91 came out at Heller Bar. These anglers fished a total of 746 hours with 28 hatchery steelhead kept and 48 wild released. No hatchery steelhead were released. Catch rates were 10hrs. 74 of the steelhead anglers that were checked at Heller bar were on guided trips. Please keep in mind that these numbers are for Idaho steelhead anglers only and are unexpanded numbers.

Anglers that are fishing above Memorial Bridge on the Clearwater (river sect 03) are using a variety of lures. Some of the lures were Purple Peril, Black Fly, Lady Caroline Skunk, black & blue Table Fly, Skater Fly, Green butted Skunk, Gold Hair Wing, purple & black fly, Orange Hair Wing, and Rust Colored Fly. Anglers are also using yarn with scent and eggs.  - Jaime Robertson, Fisheries Technician, Clearwater Region

Snake and Clearwater Fall Chinook Update for 10/7/14

Guided anglers fishing Snake River around Hellar Bar

The weather was beautiful in Lewiston with highs in the low 80’s. The best catch rates this past week were from US Highway 12 Bridge upstream to Hells Canyon Dam. The guides are taking people out to fish at Heller Bar in force. They spend a lot of time fishing in front of the ramp. They drive to the top  of the riffle and drift along the soft water bouncing/drifting bait (usually eggs). It looks like an orchestrated dance between the boats. While we are seeing a lot of effort up the Snake river now we still have quite a few fishermen fishing down in the confluence below the blue bridge (Highway 12 bridge) and up into the Clearwater as far as Memorial Bridge.  You can check harvest data on the Fish and Game website.  -  Jaime Robertson, Fisheries Technician, Clearwater Region

Clearwater Region Salmon Fishery 9/16/14

One nice thing about this time of year is while you are fishing for steelhead you could also catch a fall Chinook Salmon. This year, like the past four years, is supposed to be another good year.  In fact, we are anticipating that the returning Fall Chinook Salmon run to Idaho will be the second largest run we have seen in quite some time (last year was the largest).  We are expecting around 50,000 adults to pass over Lower Granite Dam and what is even more exciting is this year the majority of the adult fish are three-ocean fish that typically range from 18-22 pounds. On average, over 2,000 adult Chinook a day have been passing over Lower Granite Dam for the past week.  Soon we should exceed 3,000 adult Chinook a day. Catch rates for Chinook have been quite slow, but they should pick up with all these fish starting to move in.

One thing all of you should know is that only about 30% of the Chinook passing over Lower Granite Dam are clipped. That is because a lot of wild fish are returning and because around half the hatchery Fall Chinook released in Idaho are clipped (This was done to help build the run when numbers were low).   As such, you will have to catch around 4 unclipped fish for every one clipped fish you can harvest.

A commonly asked question that I get is, “why don’t you allow us to harvest Fall Chinook Salmon upstream of Memorial Bridge?” Because it is asked so often, I thought I would share my answer with all of you.  There are three main reasons.

  • First, only about 25% of the hatchery fish released into the Clearwater River are clipped. Thus, when you mix in the wild fish only about 15% of the fish are clipped.  That doesn’t leave a lot of fish to be harvested.  This clip rate is set until 2017.  Discussion will occur to decide what the new clip rate will be starting in 2018.
  • Second, the Clearwater River is a very popular place to catch-and-release Steelhead, and has been for many years.  Anglers come from all over the Nation to fish this unique fishery.  Opening a Fall Chinook season at the same time as this catch-and-release Steelhead season occurs would cause significant changes in the dynamics of this fishery (more anglers and more boats).  Many Steelhead anglers say they are not in support of this.
  • Finally, the Nez Perce Tribe is largely responsible for rebuilding the Fall Chinook run in Idaho.  Because most of the Clearwater River is in the Nez Perce Tribal Reservation, we need to be considerate of their concerns and interests before moving forward with a fishery that targets Fall Chinook in this area.  We will have discussions with the Tribe about this when we feel the time is appropriate.

This doesn’t mean that we will never have a Fall Chinook Salmon fishery upstream of Memorial Bridge, but it is important to realize there are many things to consider and address before we ever do so. 

Here's additional information on the Clearwater's steelhead fishery this fall.

Well, it is time for me to go.  The elk are bugling and I’m hoping one has my name on it.  - Joe DuPont, Fishery Manager, Clearwater Region

Clearwater Salmon Weekend Update 9/23/14

Salmon Fishing on the confluence of Snake and Clearwater Rivers

This past weekend on the Clearwater River was still pretty warm weather wise but, many anglers hit the water in the mornings and evenings. Many anglers  are off the water by 12pm. The confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, which is creel section 1 river sect. 01, is still getting the most amount of effort of the creel sections. Most people coming off the water are commenting on the ratio of unclipped vs. clipped fish. Many people are using herring and eggs for bait. Check harvest information. - Jaime Robertson Fisheries Technician, Clearwater Region

Upper Salmon River Chinook Report 7/27/14

Chinook fishing on the upper Salmon River closed at the end of fishing on Sunday, July 27th.

During the previous week, anglers in location codes 16 and 17 averaged 45 hours per Chinook caught and 84 hours per Chinook kept. Upstream, in location code 18, anglers did not report harvesting a Chinook and averaged 70 hours per Chinook caught. For the season, an estimated 79 adult Chinook were harvested out of location codes 16 and 17 and an estimated 529 adult Chinook were harvested out of location codes 18 and 19.

This is the last weekly report for the upper Salmon River Chinook season. Our weekend steelhead reports will begin Monday, October 6th. - Brent Beller, Salmon Region Fishery Technician

Clearwater Chinook Update 7/18/14

Hi everybody. This will be the last update I provide regarding fishing for spring Chinook Salmon in the Clearwater Region for you die hard, never say stop Chinook anglers.

Currently the remaining river reaches open to Chinook Salmon fishing in the Clearwater Region include:

  • Little Salmon River from its mouth to Hwy 95 bridge near Pollock (adipose clipped jacks only).
  • Little Salmon River from Pollock 95 bridge to the Smokey Bolder Road (adipose clipped adults and jacks)
  • Snake River from Dug Bar to Hells Canyon Dam (adipose clipped adults and jacks)

All Chinook Salmon fishing will end on July 27 at the close of fishing hours in these waters.  After July 27 no Chinook Salmon fishing will be allowed in the Clearwater Region. 

As a heads up, the Fall Chinook Salmon season starts on September 1. It is supposed to be another great run, so it is never too early to start planning. Unfortunately we were not able to get a permit from NOAA fisheries that would allow us to harvest unclipped fish.  As a result the rules will remain the same as in past years where only adipose clipped fish may be harvested. - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

Upper Salmon Chinook Update 7/21/14

The Chinook season in location code 19, upstream of the East Fork of the Salmon River, was closed at the end of fishing on Saturday, July 19th.  The season is still open in location codes 16, 17, and 18 until the end of fishing (10:00 PM) on Sunday, July 27th.

During the previous week, the best Chinook fishing was still found upstream of the Pahsimeroi River in location codes 18 and 19. In location code 19, which is now closed, anglers averaged 13 hours per Chinook caught and 75 hours per Chinook kept. In location code 18, anglers averaged 34 hours per Chinook caught and 85 hours per Chinook kept. Downstream of the Pahsimeroi, in location codes 16 and 17, the fishing was slower. Anglers in location code 17 averaged 106 hours per Chinook caught and 138 hours per Chinook kept while anglers in location code 16 did not report any harvest. See harvest details.

The Salmon River has continued to drop over the past week and the water temperatures keep rising. As of today, the river is flowing at approximately 1,300 cfs through the town of Salmon with mid-day water temperatures around the middle to high 60s. - Brent Beller. Salmon Region Fisheries Technician