July 10: Chinook salmon fishing update for the Clearwater River, Rapid River, and Hells Canyon

This will be my last Chinook update for these fisheries as they either have closed down or anglers have lost interest due to poor catch rates.  I know this season was a bit of a disappointment as we would all like to see much higher returns, but by using rules recommended by anglers, we were able to appreciably extend the length of these fisheries.  I think this is a good example of us working together to provide you more of what you want (more time to salmon fish). 

Run Update and Harvest Share

The table below shows the run estimates and harvest shares for the Clearwater River, Rapid River and Hells Canyon Chinook Salmon fisheries.  

run_estimate_7-10-18
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Joe DuPont

 

Clearwater River Fishery

Fishing effort slowed to a trickle in the Clearwater River Fishery, and for the first time in several weeks, catch rates actually got worse (around 20 hrs/fish).  We documented harvest (15 fish in total) in only two river reaches, section 2 (Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge) and section 8 (upper South Fork Clearwater River).  With the amount of harvest that is occurring, there is no risk of exceeding our harvest share or impacting brood collection.  As such, all areas currently open in this fishery will remain open until our permit expires (around mid-August).  I will let you all know when this occurs.  

clearwater_harvest_table_7-10-18
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Joe DuPont

 

Rapid River Fishery

Last week, the only reach open to salmon fishing was the Little Salmon River.  Very few people were observed fishing, and we actually did not document a single fish being harvested.  Trapping of brood stock also slowed considerably, and at this point it looks like we will need every fish we can get to fill the hatchery.  For this reason, we have elected to close the Little Salmon River to salmon Fishing.  This means the entire Rapid River fishery (lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers) is now closed to salmon fishing.

rapid_river_harvest_table_7-10-18
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Joe DuPont

Hells Canyon Fishery

For the third straight week, we haven’t documented a fish being harvested from this fishery.  This fishery will also remain open until our permit expires (around mid-August).  I will let you all know when this occurs.

 

What Does It Look Like For Next Year’s Fisheries?

One of the things that has been a tradition for me is to provide an unofficial forecast for next year (for the Clearwater and Rapid River runs) on my last spring/summer Chinook Salmon update.  Once again, this is not an official forecast, and because it uses PIT tag counts at Bonneville Dam, it has more uncertainty than the official forecast that will come out this winter.  I debated on whether to give this forecast because I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news; however, many people have been asking for this information, so here goes.  This forecast is based on the relationship between the number of jacks that return in one year to the number of adults that return the following year.  If you look at the table below, you will see that this year (look at last row) we estimated 1,113 jacks bound for the Clearwater and 531 jacks bound for Rapid River passed over Bonneville Dam.  Since 2009, this is the third fewest we have observed for the Clearwater Run and lowest we have seen for the Rapid River run.  As you can imagine, this does not bode well for next year.  The numbers in yellow in the table below are the adult forecasts for next year based on this jack to adult relationship.  For those of you who are interested in how these forecasts were generated, you can refer to the two graphs below (I used a logarithmic regression).  The bottom line is this analysis suggests we are in store for another down return next year.  I'm sure this is just as frustrating for you as it is for me.  Let's hope this forecast is wrong.

jack_to_adult_2009-18
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Joe DuPont

clearwater_jack_to_adult_forecast
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Joe DuPont

rapid_river_jack_to_adult_forecast
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Joe DuPont

 

I hope you all found these updates helpful as you planned your salmon fishing trips this year.  I am going to take a break for a week or two and then will start providing updates on our upcoming steelhead and fall Chinook Salmon fisheries.  Until then, enjoy your summer.