Spring Chinook update from the Clearwater (5/8/17)

Time for this week’s spring Chinook fishery update. We’ve gotten some interesting information over the past week from the lower Columbia River, but as I’ll try to explain, we still are waiting to see how this will all turn out. However, before I get to that, I pass along a local update on the sport fishery.

Idaho Sport Fishery:

Angling effort did start to increase on the lower Clearwater River during the last interval, especially during the first two days. Over the weekend, the Clearwater River discharge and debris levels increased enough to reduce angling effort. We did get reports of fish rolling and one hook up, but still no fish brought to hand.

Fish counts over Lower Granite Dam have remained low but if you look a bit father downriver to McNary Dam counts are picking up. Under typical flow conditions, some of those fish will be coming over Lower Granite Dam by our next fishing interval. However, flows on the Salmon River hit nearly 70k cfs last night, bringing a lot of debris with it, so that will influence how quickly fish move up the lower Snake River. Bottom-line, we’re getting a few more fish into the system but keep an eye on river conditions this upcoming interval.

Bonneville Dam and below:

Spring Chinook counts did increase significantly at Bonneville Dam by the end of last week. Counts on Thursday and Friday were around 4,000 and 6,500 fish. Over the weekend flows at Bonneville Dam increased and fish counts subsequently decreased to around 2,500 fish yesterday. Of course, we would all like the counts to keep going up, but it makes sense to see counts drop back with the increase in discharge that was observed. We do have additional information suggesting there are more fish waiting to come over Bonneville Dam. NOAA fisheries researchers radio-tag spring Chinook to track their movement in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam. The update we received from them last week suggests fish have just started to cross the dam with the majority of the radio-tagged fish still in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam. That is definitely a hopeful sign, however, like I’ve said in the my previous updates, we will learn more in the next couple weeks. The environmental conditions we are seeing in the system this year are unprecedented.

One more piece of information. Some of you may have noticed the online fish counts webpage has not been updated since last Thursday. Hopefully this will be fixed soon, in the meantime you can call (541) 374-4011 to get daily fish count updates from Bonneville Dam. Brett  - Bowersox, Fishery Staff Biologist, Clearwater Region.