Spring Chinook Fishery Update (5/15/17)

Time for the weekly check-in on the Idaho spring Chinook fishery. As you may expect if you’ve been keeping an eye on Chinook counts over Lower Granite Dam, Idaho spring Chinook fisheries have remained pretty quiet with no documented harvest to date. As of yesterday, there were 191 Chinook over Lower Granite for the season. Looking a bit farther downriver in the Lower Snake, there have been just over 2,000 Chinook over Ice Harbor Dam with counts increasing to 300-400 fish per day over the past four days. This is likely the front end of the peak we saw at Bonneville about ten days ago. So many of those fish will be entering the lower Clearwater by our next fishing interval. We don’t expect much activity on the Salmon River yet given the extra distance these fish need to travel and flows are predicted to remain between 45-55k cubic feet per second through this week.

By now I’ve started getting questions about the status of Idaho’s spring Chinook fishery for this year and if we expect any upcoming closures. Well, the Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee did issue an updated forecast today, which was based on the data collected at Bonneville so far this run year. Their updated forecast is approximately 50% of the pre-season forecast. This has some immediate implications for downriver fisheries in Washington and Oregon. These fisheries on the Columbia River have been closed since they met their allocation based upon the pre-season forecast, but this now means they will not re-open unless we get a significant pulse of fish coming over Bonneville.

For Idaho fisheries, there is at least one advantage to being upriver. We have the chance to continue to monitor the run over Bonneville Dam. We are still getting Idaho bound PIT-tag detections at Bonneville every day so our run continues to increase. The fact of the matter is that we are concerned and have had initial discussions on potential strategies to use with the Idaho fishery based on the data we have in hand. However, we are still getting 1,000+ fish days over Bonneville and we will continue to monitor counts to help us make decisions. So, no changes through this Sunday and we’ll keep everyone as up to date as possible regarding our seasons.  - Brett Bowersox, Fishery Staff Biologist, Clearwater Region