Spring Chinook Salmon Fishery Update (4/26/2021)
Rapid River Run, Hells Canyon, and Clearwater River Fisheries
The opening day of the spring Chinook Season came and went, so I figured it was time to start providing my weekly spring Chinook Salmon fishery updates. In this case, I will be providing updates on the Rapid River Run that provides fisheries in the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, the Hells Canyon fishery, and the Clearwater River basin fishery (this fishery is closed right now).
My plans are from now until the spring Chinook Salmon seasons are closed to provide weekly updates on 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 to help with your planning process.
For those of you who are unsure of the seasons and limits, you can click on this link (Chinook seasons and limits) to get all the details on what river reaches are open, what days of the week the fishery is open, and what the limits are. Because changes in the fishery can occur quickly, before going out, please be sure to check in on this website, contact IDFG staff, or follow the blogs I put out to get the up-to-date status on the different fisheries.
So let’s talk about what the Chinook Salmon run is looking like. After all, I think we are all wondering just how many fish are coming and when they will get to Idaho. As of yesterday (April 25, 2021), 4,155 adult spring Chinook Salmon had passed over Bonneville Dam this year. If you are wondering, this isn’t very good as the 10-year average for April 25 is 17,364 adult fish.
The graph below compares daily counts of adult spring Chinook Salmon that have passed over Bonneville Dam this year (red line) to what was counted last year (2020 – yellow line) and to the 10-year average (2011-2020 – blue line). This data shows this year’s run is tracking close to what we saw last year (2020) which was not a good year as it didn’t provide a lot of fishing opportunities. We are still early in the run so things could change considerably over the next couple weeks. Based on history, the next seven days will be telling on what this year’s spring Chinook Salmon return will be like.
To get a better feel for how many of those fish passing over Bonneville Dam are destined for fisheries in Idaho, we need to look at PIT tag detections. The table below summarizes this data. The second column (Current Bonneville Dam Estimate) in the table below shows the number of adult Chinook Salmon we estimate have passed over Bonneville Dam as of April 25 that are destined for different release locations in Idaho. The third column (Projection to Bonneville Dam) shows the number of fish we project will pass over the Bonneville Dam by the end of the run and assumes that the run timing is average. Finally, the fourth column in this table (Harvest Share) shows what we project the harvest share will be if the run continues with an average run timing. Based on this data, the run is coming in at about what we originally forecasted meaning there are not enough fish returning to the Clearwater River basin to provide a fishery whereas small fisheries can be provided on the Rapid River run (harvest share of 1,424 fish) and Hells Canyon fishery (harvest share of about 223 fish). I should mention that if the run timing is late, than we can expect our harvest shares to go up. As I indicated earlier, this return seems to be tracking along with last year’s return which was a little on the late side. We will keep you posted on how this run progresses and whether it will provide more fishing opportunities or not.
When the fishery opened on Saturday (April 24), just 84 adult Chinook had passed over Lower Granite Dam which isn’t very many especially if these fish are spread out over 100 miles of river. Not too surprising, we did not see any anglers fishing for salmon this weekend. For those tracking fish counts, at these flows it takes adult Chinook Salmon about 10 days to make it from Bonneville Dam to Lower Granite Dam and another week to reach the fisheries in the lower Salmon River and at Hells Canyon Dam. That means, it will like take at least a couple weeks before fish start being regularly caught. However, there always seems to be those lucky anglers who catch a fish when the odds are stacked against them.
As we start documenting harvest in our creel surveys, I will attach a table in these blogs that will show where the fish are being caught and how much harvest share is left before the fishery has to be closed.
That is all I have for you until next week’s update. Have a good week.