Spring Chinook Salmon Fishing Update 4/20/2020

Hi everybody.  The spring Chinook Salmon season in Idaho opens this weekend!  I have remained silent on the details of this fishery because there has been a lot of uncertainty with the outbreak of COVID-19.  However, with the season opening on April 25, I figured I couldn’t wait any longer before updating you with the most recent news.

First, the spring Chinook Salmon seasons and rules that the commission set on March 20, 2020 will be in effect when the seasons starts on April 25.  For details on what river reaches are opening and what the seasons and rules are, you can click on this link spring Chinook seasons and rules 2020.

I think everybody is aware that Idaho implemented a Stay-Home Order on March 25 and extended it on April 15 to last through April 30, 2020 to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Many people are asking how this Stay-Home Order will influence Idaho’s upcoming Chinook Season.  For guidance on this Stay-Home Order and how it pertains to recreation, one can visit this link guidance-statewide-stay-home-order.  Essentially, the guidance is outdoor recreation, including fishing, is allowed if social distancing can be maintained.  When fishing, the crux of social distancing is maintaining at least six feet from other individuals who are not from the same household.

As many of you know, some of the more popular places to fish for Chinook Salmon can get downright crowded at times.  The IDFG is paying close attention to the intent of the Stay-Home Order, and continues to assess options for managing Chinook fisheries that will help ensure the safety of anglers.  In some cases, this may mean some of the more typically congested areas will be closed to fishing.  For those areas that remain open, the challenge for anglers will be how to maintain this 6-foot spacing.  The inability of anglers to maintain social distancing could mean your favorite area will be shut down to fishing altogether.  This year, more than ever, we need cooperation and understanding on the part of all anglers to keep everyone safe and to keep areas open to fishing.  Here is some advice to consider when you go Chinook fishing this year.

  • If you are fishing a popular area, consider fishing for short periods of time and then rotate out to let others have a chance.  This will give others confidence they will have an opportunity to fish so they won’t try to crowd in.  The common practice of “I was here first so I get my spot until I catch a fish” will likely not work. 
  • Put some thought into how you will land a fish.  You could assign a designated netter (maybe somebody who already caught a fish) so multiple people don’t handle the same fishing net. 
  • Bring hand sanitizer so you can wipe down your hands and other commonly touched surfaces (like a net handle).
  • For those fishing from a boat, maintaining social distancing can be difficult at best.  As such, consider fishing by yourself or with family members.
  • Don’t congregate around boat ramps and be patient as others load and unload their boats.

These are challenging times and being patient, cooperating, and letting others have an opportunity is what will be required for this to work.  The alternative may be not fishing at all.

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Joe DuPont

The IDFG is also committed to managing the Chinook fishery to help ensure the safety of people in our rural communities.  It’s important that we don’t inundate our smaller towns with people from outside areas in a way that depletes supplies locals depend on or increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.  So, whether fishing or traveling in the state for other purposes, please plan ahead.  Bring your supplies with you and avoid contact with rural communities.

This year, with so much uncertainty with COVID-19 issues, changes in fishing rules and area closures could occur quickly.  So please check in frequently to get the most up-to-date information.

All right, let’s talk about what the run is looking like.  To date (March 1 to April 19), 1,385 adult Chinook have passed over Bonneville Dam.  This is on the low side seeing the 10-year average for this same time span is 11,632 adult fish.  To be honest, we aren’t expecting a large return this year based on the number of jacks that returned last year, so this count is not too surprising.  The good news is that the return this year is 1.5 to 3.5 times higher than we saw from 2017 to 2019 for this same time period.  None of these years provided great fisheries, but it does give us some hope that things could be improving.  In reality, we are so early in the run that things could change very quickly for the better or worse.  At this point, only a few PIT tagged Chinook that are destined for Idaho have passed over Bonneville Dam, so we have some time before we truly will understand what this run will be like.

From here on out, I will be providing weekly updates where I will discuss what the run is looking like, what our harvest share is, how many fish have been harvested, where people are catching fish, and any changes in the rules or seasons that might have or will occur.  I will try to get these updates out by at least Wednesday each week.

Until then.  Stay safe and stay healthy.