Meeting by telephone conference call April 28, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved a staff recommendation for a season on the hatchery segment of the spring chinook salmon run. There are an estimated 10,000 chinook which are excess to the needs of the hatchery program. Biologists are projecting a total run size at Lower Granite Dam of 25,571, hatchery salmon and 2,808 wild, or natural salmon. The wild fish are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The season will open May 5 in the North Fork and main Clearwater River. In the South Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers, the season will open May 27. Fishing hours on these streams will be from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Both will close July 31, but could be closed earlier if projected run numbers fail to appear. In the Lochsa River, no bait is allowed in order to keep the salmon rules the same as the general fishing rules. It is also limited to artificial flies or lures with single barbless hooks.
Boundaries on the main Clearwater River will be from Memorial Bridge at Lewiston upstream to the confluence with the South Fork, excluding the perimeter of Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. The North Fork of theClearwater will be open from its mouth upstream to Dworhshak Dam, again excluding the perimeter of Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. The South Fork of the Clearwater will be open from its mouth upstream to Hungry Ridge Bridge at Mill Creek, and the Lochsa River will be open from its mouth upstream to Papoose Creek.
The season on the Little Salmon River will open May 12 or later if specified by the National Marine Fisheries Service. A permit from that agency is required because of the presence of wild salmon in the run and Fish and Game has not yet received the permit. The season is set to run through August 4, but could close earlier for biological reasons. Fishing hours in this season are from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The boundaries on the Little Salmon River are from the main Salmon River road bridge on the Little Salmon River (road number 1614) upstream to the first highway bridge crossing the Little Salmon south of Rapid River. This is the highway bridge between Rapid River and the Sheep Creek rest area. Limits in all areas are three per day and six in possession. The statewide season limit is 20. Only hatchery chinook without an adipose fin may be kept. Once an angler reaches his or her limit, it is not legal to continue fishing for salmon.
Equipment in all areas is restricted to barbless hooks 5/8 inch or smaller. Anglers need to remember not to remove the head or tail in the field or while their salmon is in transit. The rules brochure will be available at Fish and Game offices, and at license vendors in Fish and Game's Southwest and Clearwater regions.