Spring Chinook Salmon Fishery Update (6/8/2021)
Rapid River Run, Hells Canyon, and Clearwater River Fisheries
Hi everybody, read on for my weekly spring Chinook Salmon update (6/8/2021).
Seeing the spring Chinook Salmon run over Bonneville Dam is pretty much over, I’m going to skip talking about dam passage data today and jump right into harvest shares. The table below shows the updated harvest shares for Idaho’s spring Chinook Salmon fisheries. They haven’t really changed a lot since last week although they have all gone up a little. We now project the Clearwater River return will end up having a harvest share of 178 adult fish, the Rapid River return 1,847 fish, and the Hells Canyon fishery 285 fish.
Rapid River Return
Fishing just continues to get better for this fishery. Anglers enjoyed the best catch rates of the year in all river reaches open to fishing. In section 3 of the lower Salmon River (Time Zone Bridge to Shorts Creek), average catch rates were 8 hrs/fish whereas they were 12 hrs/fish in the Little Salmon River. Last week we estimated 489 fish were harvested with most of them (325) being caught in the Little Salmon River (see table below). That brings the grand total adult harvest for this fishery to 1,426 fish, which leaves another 421 to harvest.
The 164 adult Chinook Salmon harvested between Time Zone Bridge and Shorts Creek brings the total adult harvest for the lower Salmon River to 905 fish which is right about 50% of the total harvest share (this is our goal). For this reason, all river reaches in the lower Salmon River are closed to Chinook Salmon fishing for the rest of the season. The Little Salmon River will remain open for another week (Thursday through Sunday) as we still have another 421 fish left in our harvest share. If you like to fish the Little Salmon River, I would not wait any longer as we are closing in on our harvest share, and there is no guarantee that it will remain open after this week.
We estimated that only 2 adult Chinook Salmon were caught below Hells Canyon Dam last week. That brings our total estimated harvest for the season to 90 adult fish. Over 200 fish have been trapped at the dam which seems to have really influenced this fishery. The Hells Canyon harvest share is currently at 285 fish meaning we have 195 to go before we have to shut this fishery down. As such, this fishery will remain open.
Clearwater River Return
Last week we opened a jacks-only fishery in different river reaches in the Clearwater River basin. To learn which river reaches are open please visit this web page (https://idfg.idaho.gov/fish/chinook/rules). We can provide this fishery because we have some adult harvest share (178 fish) and because there are jacks available for us to harvest (565 fish). I can tell you that those who participated in this fishery may not have caught many jacks, but they certainly had a good time catching adults. In fact, catch rates were about as good as they get – 1 hr/fish in the North Fork and 3-5 hrs/fish in the Clearwater and Middle Fork Clearwater rivers.
I have provided two tables below that summarizes how much adult mortality we have accumulated through catch-and-release fishing (we assume 10% of fish caught-and-released die), and the number of jacks that we estimate were harvested. The top table shows the adult mortality we have accumulated, and as you can see, we have used up about 40% of what is available in three days of fishing. That is because we estimate that 704 adult fish were caught-and-released. The bottom table shows the jack harvest. Our harvest share for jacks is 565 fish and last week we estimate that anglers harvested just 16. What this all means is that when we close this fishery down, it will be because of the adult mortally we accumulated due to catch-and-release fishing and not because we reached our jack harvest share. If we see similar catch rates of adults this week as last week, closures in all or portions of the Clearwater River basin will have to occur.
For those of you who like to catch Chinook Salmon and aren’t too worried about harvesting one, you may want to give the Clearwater at try. Most anglers we talked to caught fish. Don’t forget this fishery is only open Thursday through Sunday.
That is all I have for you until next week’s update. Have a good rest of your week.