Weekly Chinook Update 5/4/12

Hi everybody, I waited as long as possible before I sent out this week’s weekly Chinook update.  I was hoping run conditions would improve so I would have better news to report.  Unfortunately they haven’t so this is what I  have to report. 

Shortly after I sent the weekly update last week (4-25-12) flows increased dramatically in the Columbia and a slug of dirty water moved through. Not too surprising the number of Chinook salmon moving over Bonneville Dam dropped off dramatically, as increases in flows - especially when they are coupled with dirty water - have consistently been shown to slow down fish migrations. Some telemetry studies have found that some fish will actually move back downstream in these types of events.

What I was fully expecting after these flows dropped and water clarity improved was the fish counts over Bonneville would rebound.  Counts have come back up some, but not to the level I was expecting. This drop in dam counts certainly has influenced our models prediction of what we could expect to come over Bonneville Dam in the future (table below or click 'read more'); however, it is important to realize that these predictions can fluctuate greatly early in the run, which is where we are now. 

I fully expect our projected run total to increase, but just how much is hard to tell. Flows are still high on the Columbia. They are at around 400,000 cfs and the average for this time of year is about 250,000, so this could help explain why fish aren’t coming over Bonneville like expected.  Some other things that lead me to believe we still have a lot more fish to come are, we have only seen a few jacks destined for Idaho come over Bonneville, which indicates we are still early in the run.  Another thing to note is if you look over the timing of runs since the construction of Bonneville Dam (1938), three of the five latest runs on record have occurred in the last 6 years which suggest maybe we are in a new paradigm where late runs are more of the norm. 

I still have heard no reports of anybody catching a Chinook in Idaho which is not too surprising since we have had only 129 come over Lower Granite Dam to date.  I expect we will have our first Chinook harvested by this time next week.   - Joe Dupont, Clearwater Region Fish Manager

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 2,009 4,621 1,200 767
Kooskia (Dwrs) 3,680 855 2,117 800 278
Kooskia (Clwr) 2,539 252 588 NA 208
Selway 4,154 560 1,277 NA 196
Powell 6,146 303 718 694 (91)
SF Clearwater 10,287 886 2,063 1,014 184
Total Clearwater R. 57,525 4,864 11,383 3,708 1,540
Rapid River 35,425 6,359 13,593 2,000 3,628
Upper Little Salmon   383 819 NA 279
Total Riggins Area 35,425 6,742 14,412 2,000 3,907
Hells Canyon    1,276 2,728 400 728


Upper Salmon River Steelhead Report for 4/22/12

Besides giving many of us our first sunburn of the year, the beautiful weather we had this past weekend also managed to just about shut down the steelhead fishing. The warm weather caused the Salmon River to rise and muddy up. Not surprising, this resulted in some relatively poor fishing. Anglers did succeed in catching some steelhead in section 19, but they definitely had to put in their hours to catch them. Steelhead fishing on the Upper Salmon remains open until April 30. As of today (4/23) the Pahsimeroi Hatchery trap has captured 7,164 hatchery steelhead, and the Sawtooth Hatchery trap has captured 1,646 hatchery steelhead.  - Brent Beller

Upper Salmon River Weekend Steelhead Report for 4/15/12

The steelhead fishing this past weekend dropped off some compared to the previous one. While the hours per steelhead caught last weekend were below 10 hours in each section, they were near, or above, 10 hours this weekend. The most popular spots for fishing are still just downstream of the Pahsimeroi River and the Yankee Fork. We have ceased creeling downstream of section 17, but the few anglers who are still fishing between North Fork and Salmon, in section 16, are catching some steelhead.   - Brent Beller

Upper Salmon River Weekend Steelhead Report for 4/08/12

This past weekend most anglers were found around or upstream of the Pahsimeroi River. The majority of anglers were found in section 19. The hours per fish caught were very good for all sections that were creeled. Angler presence around Salmon dropped off significantly though. Fish were being picked up around Salmon but not in very large numbers. Very few anglers were found downstream of the Colston  Access Area. The fishing above Salmon, especially in section 19, should continue to be good for the next couple of weeks. Most likely, the tail end of the steelhead run is approaching. As of today, the hatchery returns to Pahsimeroi are 4,522, while 721 have returned to the Sawtooth trap.   - Brent Beller

Upper Salmon River Steelhead Summary 4/01/12

This past weekend the steelhead fishing picked up in a few sections. Unfortunately, the river then rose and clouded up a bit Saturday night. The river sections where anglers were having the best success this weekend were sections 17 and 19. Both of those sections were at or below 10 hrs per steelhead caught. Section 16, downstream of the Lemhi River, also had a very good catch rate, but not many anglers were in that section so we didn’t end up with a very large sample. As expected, the majority of anglers were found either around the Ellis/Deer Gulch area in section 17 or near the mouth of the Yankee Fork in section 19. Fishing should continue to be strong for at least the next few weeks and hopefully we can experience some good weather to close out the steelhead season.   - Brent Beller


Upper Salmon River Steelhead Summary Report 3/25/12

Some good weather finally appeared this weekend and the anglers really responded to it. Angler effort in both sections 17 and 19 picked up dramatically, and there were quite a few anglers in the other sections as well. Unfortunately, the steelhead did not respond as well to the good weather. Steelhead were being caught in all sections, but the hours per fish caught were not great. No section was below 10 hrs per fish caught. Also, the Pahsimeroi Hatchery started seeing fairly large amounts of steelhead moving into the trap late last week. As of Friday approximately 200 steelhead per day were in the trap.   - Brent Beller

Upper Salmon River Weekend Summary 3/11/12

Fishing this last weekend dropped off slightly from the previous one, but the hours per fish caught were still fairly good. Poor weather on Sunday also affected our data because it limited the number of anglers who were out fishing. The best fishing was again found downriver of North Fork in sections 14 and 15. Hopefully we will soon observe the catch rates improving upstream which would indicate that the steelhead are beginning to move upriver. We did not have data from section 18 this weekend because of limited personnel, but angler pressure in that section did pick up and steelhead were being caught. We will attempt  to have data for all sections again next weekend.     - Brent Beller

Upper Salmon River Weekend Summary 3/04/12

Angler success this last weekend improved in all river sections. The majority of anglers were found downstream of North Fork, but activity also increased near Ellis and steelhead were even caught in section 19. Assuming that the river stays relatively clear and doesn’t muddy up then we are expecting the fishing to only improve this coming week.   - Brent Beller

Upper Salmon River Steelhead Report 2/26/12

The steelhead fishing this last weekend on the Upper Salmon River appeared to be highly variable. Anglers were having good success on Saturday, especially downstream of North Fork in section 15, but by Sunday the fishing had cooled off considerably. The creel data for this weekend was collected by only one employee though, so we were light on data for sections 16-18. It is very likely that the fishing was better then what the data reflected for those sections. Deadwater is officially out, and has been for about a week now, so we expect the coming weekend to be very busy in section 15. There is one other thing worth mentioning. The boat ramps that had been closed due to the ice jam have now all been cleared of ice and opened. Good luck fishing!   - Brent Beller