Spring Chinook Salmon Fishery Update (6/21/2022): Clearwater River Return, Rapid River Run, Hells Canyon, and Lochsa River Fisheries

Spring Chinook Salmon Fishery Update (6/21/2022)

Clearwater River Return, Rapid River Run, Hells Canyon, and Lochsa River Fisheries

by Joe DuPont

Hi everybody, it is time for my weekly spring Chinook Salmon update (6/21/2022). We have a closure coming up for the Rapid River run fishery, so please be sure to read that section if you plan to fish there.

Run Update

I am going to jump right into what PIT tag detections are telling us about where fish are returning and what it looks like our harvest shares will be. I have updated the table below so it now captures the most up-to-date data (through 6/20/22) for Chinook Salmon fisheries in the Clearwater Region including returns to the Lochsa River which is a summer run. The Clearwater River return’s adult harvest share is projected to be 5,177 fish (darker pink row), 3,588 for the Rapid River return (blue row), zero for Hells Canyon (green row), and 119 for the Lochsa River (yellow row). Be aware that the harvest share for the Lochsa River fishery could change significantly as we are still evaluating how well these fish are surviving as they migrate from Bonneville Dam to Idaho.



Clearwater River Basin Fishery

Last week, catch rates were really good (6-12 hrs/fish) in the Clearwater River fishery except downstream of Cherrylane Bridge and in the South Fork Clearwater River. It looks like most of the fish have now pushed upstream, and most are being harvested in the terminal areas (near Dworshak and Kooskia hatcheries). The South Fork Clearwater River fish have started pushing upstream based detection at PIT tags arrays in that river. So, if you like to fish that area, there should be some salmon there to catch.

We estimate 688 adult fish were harvested last week which brings the season total to 3,844 fish (see table below). As of June 19, we have used up about 75% of our harvest share and have 1,333 fish to go. If you look at the blue section of the table below, you will notice both sections 2 and 3 are approaching our harvest goals and will likely exceed them by the end of the week. Last week I mentioned in my update that because the majority of the fish (55%) are returning to locations downstream of Orofino Bridge (historically it was closer to 30%), it may not be possible to achieve the harvest goals set for the upstream fisheries. Based on our assessment of how the fisheries are progressing, it looks like this will indeed be the case for river section 4 (Orofino Bridge to Kooskia Bridge) and the South Fork Clearwater River. To help ensure we achieve our harvest share, we will allow more fish to be harvested in river sections 2, 3, 5. What this means is there will be no additional closures this week in the Clearwater River basin (section 1 is already closed). The next time we will look at harvest data and contemplate closures will be on Monday (June 27).


Rapid River Run Fishery

Fishing has continued to improve in the Rapid River run fishery as we saw the best catch rates of the year for those areas open (14 hrs/fish in the main Salmon and 21 hrs/fish in the Little Salmon). Last week we estimated that 400 fish were harvested bringing the total harvest for the year to 1,699 adult fish (see table below). We still have 1,889 fish left in our harvest share, but I suspect harvest will really pick up this week as sunny skies and dropping river flows are forecasted for the entire week. Importantly, flows in the Salmon River are forecasted to drop below 40,000 cfs which is about the flow where the slide rapid stops delaying fish passage. This should result in a surge of fish pushing upriver. If you look at the blue section in the table below, you will see we have 477 fish left in the lower Salmon River before it achieves its harvest goal. We could easily harvest this many fish or more in a week if the fishing gets good which we expect it will. For that reason, we will be closing the entire lower Salmon River fishery at the end of fishing hours on June 26, 2022 (Sunday). The Little Salmon River will remain open, and the next time we will look at harvest data and contemplate future closures will be on Monday (June 27).

This means that starting next Monday the Little Salmon River will be open and the main Salmon River will be closed to all Chinook Salmon fishing. For those of you who like to fish the mouth of the Little Salmon River, be aware in this situation that you can’t stand in the Little Salmon and cast into or let your line drift into the main Salmon. You also can’t hook a fish in the Little Salmon River and land it in the main Salmon River. So, as you make your plans on where you want to fish next Monday, please be aware of that. Also be aware that the exact location of the where the Little Salmon ends and the main Salmon begins varies with water elevations. I have provided a map below that shows the confluence area in two different flow conditions, and the red line denotes where we would consider the mouth (end) of the Little Salmon River to be.

Hells Canyon Fishery

We didn’t observe anybody fishing below Hells Canyon Dam when we were conducting creel surveys there last week. I suspect there are still some jacks hanging out below the dam if you have an itch to fish there.


Lochsa Summer Run Fishery

We didn’t observe anybody fishing for salmon in the Lochsa River last week. Some fish are just starting to get there based on PIT tag detection on an array in the lower Lochsa River. So, there is a chance you could catch one if you want to give it a try.


Summer is officially here, and it looks like the weather is joining the game and will be providing us sun all week! So, enjoy yourself in this nice weather and don’t forget your sunscreen. 


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Joe DuPont