Anglers who have been waiting for good salmon fishing may want to pack a lunch and a rod right now.
Substantial numbers of spring chinook are being caught on the Clearwater and Little Salmon Rivers while landlocked kokanee salmon are turning in one of their best performances in years at Dworshak Reservoir.
Through last weekend, anglers had taken 2,798 spring chinook since the season started on the Clearwater. The overall average of hours of fishing per fish was 18.5. This fishery is fueled primarily by spring chinook returning to Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. Funding for this hatchery program comes from the Lower Snake River Compensation Program, a program that provides money for hatchery production of salmon and steelhead at several locations in the Snake River Basin as mitigation for the effects of the four federal hydropower dams on the lower Snake River. The program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mitigation was provided when the dams were built because fish survival was reduced by construction and operation of the hydro facilities and their associated reservoirs.
Anglers have been catching chinook even faster on the Little Salmon River near Riggins. At last count, anglers had taken 925 chinook there with an average of 12.1 hours per fish.
The Little Salmon fishery is supported by the Rapid River Fish Hatchery, funded by Idaho Power Company. This hatchery program provides mitigation for the Hells Canyon Complex of hydropower dams built by Idaho Power Company. Mitigation was provided to replace spring chinook and habitat lost when the dams were built. A spring chinook run that once returned upstream of the Hells Canyon Complex to tributaries such as the Powder River was relocated to Rapid River Hatchery to provide fishing opportunity.
Fishing for chinook in Idaho is strictly for hatchery-produced fish. Idaho's wild chinook are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The kokanee fishery at Dworshak Reservoir, much reduced in recent years when many kokanee went over the dam in large water releases, has been unusually good this spring. Anglers are reporting fast fishing and many large kokanee. Generally, anglers catch either lots of small kokanee or a few large ones.