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