The Coho Salmon Are Coming
The Coho Salmon are just starting to get to Idaho, so it may take a couple weeks before you chances of catching one become reasonable. For details on the Coho Salmon seasons and rules, please refer to the Coho Salmon Seasons and Rules.
For those of you interested in what this Coho Salmon run is looking, I have provided the figure below. This figure shows how many Coho Salmon have been counted at Lower Granite Dam since 1995. The years were Coho Salmon fishing opportunities were provided in the past were 2014, 2017, and 2019.
In most years, over the half the Coho Salmon destined for Idaho have passed over Bonneville Dam by September 15 which gives us some confidence in projecting how many will ultimately make it to Idaho this year. This year the run is looking stronger than expected, but the run also seems early which makes us think that anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 Coho Salmon will make it to Lower Granite Dam. This is displayed in the light blue shaded area on the graph below. About 60% of these fish are destined for release locations in the Clearwater River basin and 40% are destined for the Grande Ronde River. At this point we are still working with the Nez Perce Tribe on what our harvest shares will be, but we are confident that enough are returning to provide harvest opportunities for both Tribal and non-Tribal fisheries.
The Coho Salmon program is success story spearheaded by the Nez Perce Tribe. The Nez Perce Tribe started this program in 1994 by using surplus Coho Salmon eggs collected from the lower Columbia River. As the run began to build, the Nez Perce Tribe was able to use these returning fish for broodstock – fish that demonstrated the ability to migrate hundreds of miles to the ocean as smolts and back to the Clearwater River as adults. Not too surprising, the “localized” broodstock is producing offspring that have better survival rates than smolts coming from adults collected in the lower Columbia. What we hope this means is that Coho Salmon returns large enough to produce fishing opportunities will become more common. This seems to be happening as this will be the third year out of the past four where Coho Salmon returns have been large enough to provide some fishing opportunity.
Currently, the Nez Perce Tribe collects Coho Salmon for broodstock at Lower Granite Dam, Lapwai Creek, Dworshak Hatchery, and Clear Creek (Kooskia Hatchery). In addition, the Nez Perce Tribe outplants a portion of these returning fish into some of Clearwater River’s tributaries in an effort to start natural spawning populations.