The outlook for salmon fishing in Idaho is even better than it was when a season was approved last week.
The spring chinook run at Bonneville Dam was 133,358 on May 3, the best for this date since 1974. Earlier projections were for a total run of 133,300. The projected run is now estimated at 164,000 fish.
The run through Lower Granite Dam, the last dam on the Lower Snake River before the Idaho border, was 7,868, similar to the run at this date in 1992. Adult spring chinook are crossing Lower Granite Dam at about 1,000 per day.
Fishing is for hatchery chinook only. Wild chinook are strictly protected under 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 the Clearwater will be open from its mouth upstream to Dworshak 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. Authorization from that agency is required because of the presence of wild salmon in the run and Fish and Game has not yet received it. 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.