Spring Chinook Salmon Fishing Update 5/19/2020

Hi everybody, it is time for my weekly spring Chinook Salmon update (5/19/2020).

From here on out I will be organizing these updates to start out discussing the size of the Chinook Salmon run and the how this influences harvest shares in Idaho's spring Chinook Salmon fisheries.  I will then follow with updates on the different fisheries that are open - the Rapid River fishery and Hells Canyon fishery in this case.

Run Size and Harvest Shares

Counts at Bonneville continue to show lackluster numbers.  If you look at the graph below you will see this year’s counts (red line) are still jumping up and down, but well below what we need to make significant changes to our fisheries.  As I indicated last week, there are no indications that large numbers of fish are stacking up behind Bonneville Dam.  So don’t expect a large late peak like we saw in 2017.  This year’s return is still tracking behind what we saw last year (2019) when we were able to provide very limited fishing opportunities in Idaho.

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Joe DuPont

Updates to the PIT tag data collected at Bonneville Dam are shown in the table below.  The numbers are not a whole lot different than what I showed last week.  We did see a small surge of PIT tagged Chinook destined for Rapid River Hatchery pass over Bonneville Dam yesterday which caused the harvest share for this fishery to bump up a little (to 621 fish).  PIT tag detections at dams upstream of Bonneville Dam suggest that the fish destined for Rapid River are surviving at a higher rate than normal as they migrate up the Columbia and Snake rivers.  If this continues, this could add another 150 to 250 fish to our harvest share.  Let’s hope this continues.  PIT tag detections for fish destined for the Clearwater basin still indicate that not enough fish will return to this area to provide a fishery.  

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Joe DuPont

Rapid River Fishery

From here on out until the Rapid River fishery closes, I will be updating the table below that shows what our harvest share is, how many and where we estimate fish were harvested, and how many fish are left in our harvest share.  As you can see from this table, harvest was very light last week (18 adults) as the Chinook Salmon were just starting to move into the fishing area.  Average catch rates ranged from 90-350 hours a fish depending on where people were fishing.  Flows are supposed to increase in the Salmon River this week and peak at around 55,000 cfs on Thursday, so the water will likely get dirty and slow down fish migration.  By the time the fisheries reopen on Saturday, water conditions hopefully will have improved.  Don’t forget this fishery is only open on Saturday and Sunday and it is closed in the Salmon River upstream of Time Zone Bridge and in the Little Salmon River from the mouth upstream to Salmon River road bridge.  For more details on the spring Chinook Salmon seasons and rules, you can click on this link salmon rules.

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Joe DuPont

Hells Canyon Fishery

We saw the first Chinook Salmon harvested in the Hells Canyon fishery last week.  We only monitor this fishery directly down stream of Hells Canyon Dam as this is where almost all harvest occurs.  We estimated 16 adults and 3 jacks were harvested there last week with catch rates averaging 12 hours a fish.  I suspect fishing will only get better as fish will continue to stack up behind the dam until trapping begins on June 2.  The Hells Canyon fishery is open 7 days a week. 


I hope you all have a good week.