Steelhead Fishing Blog

Clearwater Steelhead Weekend Creel Numbers 9/8/12

STEELHEAD CREEL NUMBERS  (Unexpanded Estimates*)

        For Weekend of:  9/8/2012

                                                                        NO. ANGLERS                       NO. OF        NO. OF  FISH                                            

                                                                          CHECKED             NO.      FISH KEPT   RELEASED   TOTAL   WATER              

SECTION          RIVER LOCATION                                       HOURS                                                       FISH     TEMP (°F)      

01             Snake R. –

                    Downstream from Salmon R.                      64             268            4                 7                         11               68    

02             Clearwater River –

                    Mouth to Memorial Bridge                          17               71             1                 0                          1                52    

03A          Clearwater River

                    Memorial Bridge to Orofino Bridge **         15              76             0                 0                          0                 54  

 

    * The values shown are unexpanded sample data and estimates of fishing effort and success.

   ** Before October 15, steelhead fishing upstream of Memorial Bridge of U.S. Highway 12 at Lewiston is catch-and-release only.

  *** CLR = clear; CDY = cloudy; MDY = muddy.

 

Update on Fall Chinook and Steelhead Fishing 9/05/12

The good news is that water temperatures are finally starting to cool down in the Snake River and higher numbers of steelhead are now starting to pass over Ice Harbor Dam (first dam on the Snake River).  You should expect those fish to start entering Idaho in about a week, so get ready if you like to fish the lower Clearwater or Snake Rivers. 

Now for the bad news.  Based on the number of steelhead we are seeing come over Bonneville Dam, it appears that the A-run steelhead (generally one-ocean fish that come in earlier) will come in lower than expected.  We are projecting that about 68,000 hatchery A-run fish will enter Idaho.  If you are wondering whether this is good or not, I can tell you that we have not seen this low of return since 1999.  Right now it is too early to project the B-run (generally two-ocean fish that come in later), but it doesn’t look good for them as well.  Early models are projecting that about 12,000 hatchery “B” fish will enter Idaho, but this could change considerably as it is still early.  If this comes true, it will also be the lowest B-run we have seen since 1999.  We aren’t sure why these runs are coming in so low as it seemed that river conditions were good during their out migration and ocean conditions when they entered salt water didn’t seem to be poor.  I obviously have much more to learn about steelhead survival.    I hope that this forecast won’t discourage you from fishing as often what you will see in these types of situations is lower fishing pressure which often results in higher catch rates.  In fact, I can recall one of my most memorable steelhead fishing days occurred in the 1990’s when steelhead numbers were down. 

On a good note, it appears the Fall Chinook are coming in as projected (over 18,000 to lower Granite Dam) which is good.  So, if you are having trouble catching steelhead, give Fall Chinook a try.  Most of these fish will be less than 15 pounds,  but every year we see several come over Lower Granite dam that exceed 45 pounds.  Those people who seem to be successful are fishing deep (using a downrigger or heavier weight) with a flasher and a super bait or plug cut herring.  Good numbers of Fall Chinook should start hitting Idaho in about a week as well.

Have a great Fall, and I will talk to you later.  - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

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

Upper Salmon Weekly Chinook Update 7/22/12

Angler effort was lower this past weekend compared to the one before, and the number of Chinook harvested dropped as well. Between July 16th and July 22nd, 174 adults and 36 jacks were kept, while 137 non ad-clipped adults were released. The hours per Chinook caught improved this past week with anglers averaging approximately 22 hours per Chinook in section 19, and 29 hours per Chinook in section 18. Season totals for sections 18 and 19 combined are 673 hatchery adult Chinook kept and 389 unclipped adult Chinook released. As of today (July 23rd), the number that have been trapped at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery is 2, 168 hatchery adults, 200 hatchery jacks, and 315 wild.  - Brent Beller, Salmon Region Fisheries

Expanded Effort and Catch estimates for (July 16 - July 22)                
Salmon River Stanley Area # of Salmon kept Total Salmon Released Total Salmon caught Breakdown of salmon released Angler Hours   Hours/Fish
  Adults Jacks Total     ad-clipped adults ad-clipped jacks non ad-clipped adults non ad-clipped jacks Boat Bank Total Caught  Kept
Section 18       Weekly Total 12 3 15 22 37 0 0 22 0 410 674 1084 29 72
Section 19       Weekly Total 162 33 195 139 334 12 4 115 8 356 6931 7287 22 37
Section 18 &19 Season Total 673 72 745 477 1222 60 15 389 13 3041 28269 31310 26 42

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

Upper Salmon Weekly Chinook Update 7/15/2012

Angler effort picked up again this past weekend compared to the one before, but that did not result in many more harvested Chinook. In general, the numbers from the week were similar to those from the week previous. Between July 9th and July 15th, 221 adults and 5 jacks were kept, while 130 non ad-clipped adults were released. Anglers averaged approximately 28 hours per Chinook caught in section 19 and 55 hours per Chinook caught in section 18. To date, season totals are 499 hatchery adult Chinook kept and 252 unclipped adult Chinook released. As of today (July 16th), the number that have been trapped at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery is 1,982 hatchery adults, 166 hatchery jacks, and 290 wild. Hopefully the best is still yet to come and more Chinook continue to move into sections 18 and 19.   - Brent Beller, Salmon Region Fisheries

Expanded Effort and Catch estimates for (July 9 - July 15, 2012)              
Salmon River Stanley Area # of Salmon kept Total Salmon Released Total Salmon caught Breakdown of salmon released Angler Hours     Hours/Fish
  Adults Jacks Total     ad-clipped adults ad-clipped jacks non ad-clipped adults non ad-clipped jacks Boat Bank Total Caught  Kept
Section 18 Weekly Total 19 0 19 23 42 0 4 19 0 1172 1148 2320 55 122
Section 19 Weekly Total 202 5 207 124 331 8 5 111 0 0 9151 9151 28 44
Section 18 &19 Season Total 499 36 535 316 851 48 11 252 5 2275 20664 22939 27 43

 

 

 

Upper Salmon Weekly Chinook Report (7/9/12)

Angler effort picked up again this past weekend compared to the one before, but there were still a few open holes out there. The addition of section 18 to the fishery also helped to spread anglers out and opened up some more good water. For the week 206 adults and 25 jacks were kept, while 95 non ad-clipped adults were released. Anglers averaged approximately 21 hours per Chinook caught in section 19 and 29 hours per Chinook caught in section 18. To date, season totals are 278 hatchery adult Chinook kept and 122 unclipped adult Chinook released. As of today (July 9nd), the number that have been trapped at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery is 1,175 hatchery adults, 105 hatchery jacks, and 173 wild. Hopefully the best is yet to come since fishing should only keep improving as more Chinook continue to move into sections 18 and 19.   - Brent Beller, Salmon Region Fisheries

Salmon River Stanley Area # of Salmon kept Total Salmon Released Total Salmon caught Breakdown of salmon released Angler Hours Hours/Fish
  Adults Jacks Total     ad-clipped adults ad-clipped jacks non ad-clipped adults non ad-clipped jacks Boat Bank Total Caught  Kept
Section 18 Weekly Total 60 2 62 31 93 9 0 22 0 1086 1635 2721 29 44
Section 19 Weekly Total 146 23 169 105 274 29 0 73 3 0 5797 5797 21 34
Section 18 and 19 Season Total 278 31 309 169 478 40 2 122 5 1103 10365 11468 24 37

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.

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 0 28 28 140 5 0
Hammer Creek Boat Ramp to Time Zone Bridge 0 0 0 192 - 0
Time Zone Bridge to Mouth of Short's Creek 2 0 2 102 51 0
Short's Creek to Vinegar Creek 0 0 0 47 - 0
Salmon River Week Total 2 28 30 481 16 0
Salmon River Season Total 2314 262 2576 54949 21 615

Over the last several weeks I have received numerous comments about the tribal fishery on the Little Salmon and Rapid River.  So, I thought I would respond to all of you so we all have a similar understanding of what has happened. This year a buyer (I think from Portland) came over to Riggins to purchase Chinook salmon caught by the tribe. The tribe has the rights to allow this, but they set a season when this is allowed. The tribe shut down the commercial sale of unprocessed Chinook salmon over a week ago.  They can still sell smoked, canned, or jerked fish though.  When catching fish, the tribe utilized a variety of techniques, but in the Riggins area the only techniques I’m aware that they have used includes, dip nets, spears, and rod-and-reel.  No gill nets were used despite some rumors.  Regardless of what technique they use, the tribe, just like non-tribal anglers, cannot exceed their harvest share.  At this point the tribe has estimated they have caught around 3,500 fish – less than sport anglers have.  Some have suggested many more were caught as they looked at coolers of fish being brought to the purchaser.  Any time a large portion of the fish being caught are taken to one location, it will look like a lot of fish.  Can you imagine what it would have looked like if non-tribal anglers brought all their fish to one spot.  I can assure you that the tribe, just like us, are trying to do the best they can to determine just how many fish were harvested.  Neither of us want to over-harvest our fish and not meet brood stock needs.  That will only punish all of us in the future.   So I hope this clears up any questions you may have had about the tribal fishery.  If not, feel free to drop me a line.

Good luck.  - Joe DuPont, Clearwater Region Fishery Manager

More of Upper Salmon River Opened to Chinook Harvest

Idaho Fish and Game has opened another section of the upper Salmon River to Chinook salmon fishing.  The Ellis area is now open from the posted boundary about 100 years upstream of the mouth of the Pahsimeroi River upstream to the Highway 75 Salmon River bridge about 250 yards upstream of the mouth of the East Fork Salmon River.  The Stanley area of the upper Salmon opened June 23. Both areas remain open until further notice. -  IDFG News

 

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