Spring Chinook Salmon Fishery Update (5/4/2021)
Rapid River Run, Hells Canyon, and Clearwater River Fisheries
Hi everybody, it is time for my weekly spring Chinook Salmon update (5/4/2020). So let’s get right to it and discuss what we have learned since my last update.
Over the last week, counts of adult spring Chinook Salmon at Bonneville Dam have picked up. As of yesterday (May 3, 2021), 25,229 adult Chinook Salmon have passed over Bonneville Dam this spring season which is about 50% of the 10 year average. Although this isn’t great, we are certainly in better shape than last week when we were at just 24% of the 10-year average.
To understand what has changed, please take a look at the graph below that compares daily Chinook Salmon counts at Bonneville Dam for this year (red line) to what was counted in the past. As you can see, we had two days where over 4,500 fish were counted before they dropped back down. These counts are great, but truth be told we typically see some daily counts over 5,000 fish even in down run years. The key is, we need sustained counts over 5,000 fish (10 or more days’ worth) to really make a difference. What we saw last week is step in the right direction, but we need to counts to bounce back up and stay up before we can start providing some meaningful fisheries.
Let’s take a look at the PIT tag detections to better understand how many salmon passing over Bonneville Dam are destined for Idaho. The table below summarizes this data. If you are following this information closely, you will notice one major difference from what I reported last week, and that is you will see the harvest share totals (fourth column) for all three fisheries are now positive. The Rapid River and Hells Canyon returns haven’t changed much (they actually have gone down a little), but the Clearwater River return went from a harvest share well into the negatives (-1,242) last week to where we now have a positive number (22 fish). This is not enough to open this fishery especially since counts are bouncing around and we still aren’t sure how many fish are yet to come (is the run late or not?). However, we have moved from a stage where we thought it was highly unlikely that we would open a fishery in the Clearwater River basin to where it now could be possible. As I indicated earlier, we need to see those daily counts at Bonneville jump back up near 5,000 and stay there a while. We will keep a close eye on this information and keep you posted if any new developments occur.
This past week we finally observed a few anglers fishing for salmon, but most seemed to be just testing out their equipment so that they would be ready when the fish arrived. Not too surprising, we did not talk to anybody who had harvested a salmon. However, we have had Chinook Salmon counts at Lower Granite Dam in excess of 100 fish for three straight days now, and these fish should start reaching the lower Salmon River where the fishery is open and below Hells Canyon Dam this weekend. For that reason, we could see our first salmon harvested this week. However, it will likely be sometime the following two weeks when we start seeing meaningful amounts of harvest.
It seems that every year we see one early fish make it to Rapid River Hatchery, and this year was no exception. Our first Chinook Salmon was actually trapped last week.
That is all I have for you until next week’s update. Let’s hope for more of those 5,000 fish days.