Idaho Fish and Game commissioners approved the spring chinook seasons and rules for the Snake, Clearwater, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers during its regular meeting Thursday, March 16 in Boise.
Fishing will open April 22, with a four-day-a-week season on the Clearwater River, and daily fishing on the Snake, lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers. Once open, the seasons will continue as set until further notice. The season typically ends when the sport anglers' share of the run is caught, which varies by river.
Chinook have just started entering the Columbia River and less than 15 have crossed Bonneville Dam, which is the first of eight dams the fish cross in the Columbia/Snake river systems. The forecast for this year is adult 49,400 hatchery fish to cross Lower Granite Dam about 25 miles downstream from Lewiston, which is the last dam the fish cross before reaching Idaho. Last year, an estimated adult 58,200 hatchery chinook crossed Lower Granite.
Because the projected return to the Clearwater River basin is down this year, and the sport anglers share is about 1,900 adult fish, fishing will be open Thursdays through Sundays and closed Mondays to Wednesdays.
“Fishing four-days-a-week will extend the season, which anglers told us they wanted,” said Joe DuPont, Fish and Game regional fisheries manager at Lewiston. “This will also allow us to calculate real time harvest rates so that harvest can be better distributed to all the communities throughout the basin.”
Anglers should note that the section of the Clearwater from Five Mile Boat Ramp to Kamiah will be closed this year to make it easier for fisheries officials to monitor harvest rates.
Anglers should consult the 2017 spring chinook salmon seasons and rules brochure for other rules and special restrictions regarding fishing from shore and watercraft. Brochures will be available at Fish and Game offices, license vendors and online prior to season opener.
Areas open to spring chinook fishing include:
Clearwater River drainage – open Thursday through Sunday
- Mainstem Clearwater River from Camas Prairie Railroad Bridge at Lewiston upstream to the Five Mile Boat Ramp (about three miles upstream of Greer); and from Kamiah Bridge to the mouth of the South Fork Clearwater River.
- North Fork of the Clearwater from the mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam.
- South Fork Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to the confluence of American and Red rivers.
- Middle Fork Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway rivers.
Salmon River drainage – open seven days a week
- Lower Salmon River from Rice Creek Bridge near Cottonwood upstream to the uppermost boat ramp at Vinegar Creek.
- Little Salmon River from the mouth upstream to the U.S. Highway 95 bridge near Smokey Boulder Road.
Snake River – open seven days a week
- Snake River from Dug Bar boat ramp upstream to Hells Canyon Dam.
Limits for the Clearwater River, North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork of the Clearwater rivers are four chinook per day, only one may be an adult (24 inches or longer) and 12 in possession, only three may be adults.
Limits for the Snake River, lower Salmon River and Little Salmon River are four chinook, only two may be adults and 12 in possession, only six may be adults.
Season limit is 20 adult chinook salmon statewide during 2017 for salmon seasons occurring prior to Sept. 1, 2017.
Only hatchery chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be kept by anglers, and all others must be released unharmed. Chinook anglers are also restricted to barbless hooks.
The Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to decide on summer chinook salmon fisheries on the Lochsa River, South Fork Salmon River and upper Salmon River at its May meeting. Fish return to those areas later than to the Clearwater River and Rapid River hatcheries, allowing fishery managers more time to develop season proposals.