Frequently Asked Questions

We get a lot of questions. We post here answers to questions we're being asked frequently. If you have a question not answered here, please contact us. Urgent questions should be directed to your nearest office. Some answers change over time; please take note of the "answered" date.

Displaying 1 - 25 of 160 questions


Chinook salmon are often classified into three different groupings or “runs” – spring, summer or fall based on when they enter fresh water.  Spring Chinook salmon migrating to Idaho tend to enter the Columbia River from March through May, summer Chinook Salmon enter the Columbia June through July, and fall Chinook Salmon enter August through November.

In Idaho, most spring and summer Chinook salmon spawn from late August through September.  Fall Chinook salmon tend to spawn from late October through early December.  When spawning, the female will dig a hole in the gravel to lay her eggs.  This hole is referred to as a “redd” and the female will lay anywhere from 4,000 to 15,000 eggs depending on her size.  While the female lays her eggs, a male will simultaneously fertilize them with milt.  When done spawning, the female will cover up the hole with gravel to help insure the eggs are protected from predators.  When spawning is complete, both the male and female die.

The eggs hatch in the spring and the juvenile fish will live the next year in fresh water before migrating to the ocean.  The exception is fall Chinook salmon that only live a months or two in fresh water before beginning their migration to the ocean.  Chinook salmon from Idaho tend to spend one to five years in the ocean before returning to fresh water to spawn, with two years being the most common.  Chinook salmon, like other salmon species, have the ability to find their way back to the same stream and often the exact same place to spawn that their parents spawned.

Young salmon eat both aquatic and terrestrial insects when in fresh water. They turn to a diet of fish once they reach salt water. Adults retuning to spawn do not eat once they enter fresh water; they live off their fat reserves.

answered 4/29/2016


The Chinook salmon is the largest species of salmon and is native to the Pacific Ocean and rivers that flow into it.  Chinook salmon are anadromous fish, meaning they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean where they grow and mature, and then return back to fresh water to spawn.  When Chinook are in the ocean they are silvery in color with black spots on the upper half of their body.  When Chinook salmon return to spawn, they begin changing colors.  The longer they are in fresh water the more they change.  In Idaho, by the time they spawn they can range anywhere from a yellowish-olive color to greyish-black.  In states like Alaska, Chinook salmon will turn a reddish color before they spawn.  One characteristic that anglers can use to identify a Chinook salmon from other salmon species is the entire inside of their mouth is black.

The size that Chinook salmon will obtain is largely dependent on how long they spend in the ocean.  Chinook that spend one year in the ocean before returning to spawn are commonly referred to as “jacks” and average about 3-5 pounds in size.  After two years in the ocean they average around 10-15 pounds, in three years 15-22 pounds, and after four years 25-35 pounds.  The Idaho State record caught Chinook salmon weighed 54 pounds.

answered 4/29/2016


Chinook anglers use a variety of techniques to catch salmon.  The most common techniques that shore anglers use includes plunking, bobber and jig, and side drifting.  Most boat anglers will back troll, plunk, and back bounce.  Since Chinook salmon are not feeding when they are in fresh water, anglers use a variety lures, beads, jigs, and yarn that stimulate them to bite.  Sometimes Chinook salmon are aggressive and will take about anything put in front of them, and other times it requires more finesse.  Many anglers believe that using bait or scent will increase the likelihood that a Chinook salmon will bite.  Popular baits include shrimp, herring, tuna, and cured fish eggs; and there are about as many different types of scents that anglers use as you can imagine.  There are many different sources of information on how to fish for salmon on websites.  You should always feel free to contact Fish and Game for tips on how to catch Chinook salmon.

answered 4/29/2016


Avid anglers will follow salmon returns by checking the dam counts at Bonneville Dam (first Dam on the Columbia River). A general rule of thumb is it takes about 14 to 17 days for salmon to travel up the Columbia River to Lower Granite Dam, the last of the eight dams they must pass over to reach Idaho.  The travel time can vary based on run of Chinook salmon you are following and what flows are like.  For the most part, those fish migrating in higher flows will take longer than fish traveling in lower flows.

answered 4/29/2016


Because Chinook Salmon return to so many places in the state, it’s hard to say there is a best place to fish.  Much of this has to do with an angler’s preference in how they like to fish and how far they are willing to travel. 

If you want to fish where the best catch rates occur consider fishing closer to where the fish are released.  Recognize that these locations are also the most crowded and it is not unusual to fish shoulder to shoulder in these areas.  You can learn where these release locations are by calling the Clearwater or Salmon Fish and Game offices. If you don’t like crowds, there are many places where one doesn’t have to fish right next to another person.  However, these places tend to have lower catch rates.  If one does enough searching, at times you can find good fishing with little competition from other anglers. 

Some people like to fish from boats whereas others like to fish from shore.  In general, the smaller rivers tend to provide the most shore fishing opportunities, and the larger rivers tend to provide more boat fishing opportunities.  If you like shore fishing consider the South Fork Clearwater, Little Salmon, South Fork Salmon, and upper Salmon rivers.  If you want to fish from a boat consider the Clearwater and lower Salmon rivers.

answered 4/29/2016


There are three different runs of Chinook Salmon that enter Idaho, each provide fishing opportunities at different times of the year.

Spring Chinook Salmon: Hatchery spring Chinook salmon tend to start entering Idaho around the end of April or Beginning of May with the peak of the run entering Idaho around early to mid-May. These fish are destined for the Clearwater River basin, the Snake River (up to Hells Canyon Dam), the lower Salmon River and the Little Salmon River. On most years the fishing season for spring Chinook salmon opens around the end of April and may last as short as a couple weeks or as long as four months depending on the number of fish returning.

The best time to fish can vary considerably depending on where you want to fish, the timing of the run, and weather and flow conditions. The general rule of thumb is the closer you are to the Idaho-Washington border, the earlier you will want to fish. If you want to fish in the lower Clearwater and the Snake rivers, consider fishing in May. If you want to fish near the town of Riggins, late May to mid-June tends to be the best times. If in doubt, feel free to call the Clearwater Fish and Game office.

Summer Chinook Salmon: Hatchery summer Chinook salmon tend to start entering Idaho around mid to late June with the peak of the run occurring around late June to early July. These fish are destined for the South Fork Salmon River, and the upper Salmon River. On most years the fishing season for summer Chinook salmon opens around the end of June and may last as short as a couple weeks or as long as three months depending on the number of fish returning. The best time to fish can vary considerably but often the best time to fish is in July. If in doubt, feel free to call the Clearwater Fish and Game office.

Fall Chinook Salmon: Hatchery fall Chinook Salmon tend to starting enter Idaho around late August to early September with the peak of the run occurring around mid to late September. These fish are destined for the Snake River and Clearwater River. On most years the fishing season for fall Chinook Salmon opens on September 1 and ends on October 31. The best time to fish can vary considerably, but often mid-September to early October are the times when most like to fish for fall Chinook Salmon.

answered 4/29/2016

Q: How to troll for landlocked chinook salmon?

What are some of the best ways to locate and catch Chinook salmon?
How deep do you normally fish for them and what colors do you normally use?
I have been told to use pink, but I thought it was not visible past 20ft.


Landlocked fall Chinook are placed in reservoirs like Lucky Peak, Deadwood and Anderson Ranch to control/prey upon kokanee salmon.  They are a fish management tool we use to adjust the number of kokanee to prevent over-population - which results in stunting due to lack of food.  Consequently, you should fish for Chinook at the same or slightly below where kokanee are found in the water column.  You will definitely need down-riggers or heavy gear to fish at depths of 20+ feet during the spring and summer.
We've seen people catch fall Chinook on all different colors of gear.  Keep in-mind, fall Chinook are preying on kokanee which are a silver to blue in color while in the reservoir.  I would fish lures that are similar to those colors and mimic an eradic or flashy swimming pattern.

answered 2/15/2016

Q: Chinook in Arrowrock

Hi F&G
I have been fishing arrowrock a bit this winter and happened upon a spot where I seem to have pulled out multiple chinook.
They are not kokanee, or trout, they are a salmon. People have told me that coho have been planted in anderson, as well as chinook. People seem to think they are coho because their jaw is not black.
The 3 I caught were roughly 16-18" spots on the back, silver body, spots on the tail, greenish hue to their back.
I have caught 3 in 2 days, are they washed out from anderson? Are they planted in Arrowrock? Are they spawning? I am a bit lost here any help would be appreciated.
Here is a picture of the fish Bottom is a trout, top fish is the one I am asking about.
How did this many salmon wash out into arrowrock?


There have been a few fall Chinook that have passed out of Anderson Ranch Reservoir and  caught downstream in Arrowrock Reservoir.  However, the fish in your picture are not fall Chinook or coho.  The fish in the bottom of the picture is clearly a rainbow trout while the upper fish appears to be a kokanee. 
IDFG used to stock coho in many reservoirs across the southern part of Idaho but after several years of evaluation of return-to-creel results, we found  few were being caught by anglers.  Coho were replaced in our hatchery systems with other strains of rainbow trout and more kokanee production - fish that are caught by anglers.  Our goal is to achieve a 40%+ harvest number for fish stocked at 9 - 12" in length.
Fall Chinook have been stocked numerous times over the years as a fish management tool to control excess numbers of kokanee.  They are an aggressive predator on kokanee and, as a benefit, provide an outstanding fishery for anglers interested in catching larger fish.  Deadwood Reservoir is another location where both kokanee and fall Chinook can be caught.

answered 2/7/2016

Q: Salmon/steelhead license

Can I fish for either salmon or steelhead with one permit or do I need to buy a permit for each species?


In Idaho we require seperate permits to fish for steelhead and salmon.  So, the Steelhead permit is good for fishing in the spring and fall steelhead seasons.  You need to record all steelhead caught and kept over 20" in length on your permit. 
The Salmon permit is good for fishing in the spring and summer (spring Chinook salmon) and fall (fall Chinook and coho salmon). Salmon over 24" that are kept must be recorded on your permit by removing a date notch and recording the river section where the fish is caught.

answered 11/9/2015

Q: salmon fishing in Andersen res.

What are the fishing rules for Salmon in the Anderson res?


The salmon in Anderson Ranch Reservoir are landlocked fall Chinook that were stocked in the reservoir to help reduce the number of kokanee salmon.  In Idaho rules, landlocked salmon are considered in the trout bag limit and all rules for catching trout also apply to fall Chinook in Anderson Ranch.
You can use barbed hooks; 5 hooks per line and keep 6 fall Chinook per day.

answered 10/9/2015

Q: Steelhead and Chinoock Salmon Fishing on the Salmon River Upstream of Stanely ID

Hello, I have a couple of questions
1. When do steelhead and chinnock typically reach the Stanely area on their respective runs in the upper Salmon River?
2. Are you allowed to catch and release them in this area and/or above the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery?
3. Do you see them in those upper lakes in such as Redfish, Alturus or Pettit or in the steams in or out of those lakes?
Daniel Roper


There are a number of variables that effect when salmon and steelhead arrive in the Stanley Basin.  Flow, temperature and downstream fish passage conditions are the most common environmental conditions that can alter arrival by 2 - 3 weeks.
The Stanley area has both spring and summer run Chinook.  They typically don't arrive until mid-July.  There are few Stanley Basin steelhead and no fishing open above the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery.  Most steelhead begin arriving in mid to late October in the Salmon/Challis area and will stage in the main Salmon River over the winter and move into the tributary streams in March and early April to spawn.
It is illegal to fish for salmon and steelhead when the area is not open for those species.  That includes catch-and-release fishing. 
Chinook salmon and steelhead do not use those upper basin lakes.  The only anadromous fish found are sockeye which need the lakes for an important part of their lifecycle.  Hopefully, we will have a sockeye fishery in Idaho wtihin the next 10 years on hatchery produced fish.

answered 9/24/2015

Q: Yankee Fork

Several questions.
# 1- What species of fish are in upper Yankee Fork river?
I have a 90 acre claim. ( Starlight Claim # 203588)
The claim includes approx. 3/4 miles on Yankee Fork river.
By law I own anything above ground ( Gold, minerals) etc.
#2- Can I fish on my portion of claim without fishing license?
I'm a catch and release fisherman..


Hi there Vaugh,
The Yankee Fork is home to several species of fish, including Chinook Salmon, Steelead, Bull Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Mountain Whitefish. At this time, the populations of salmon and steelhead are very low and no fishing is allowed for those species. Bull Trout and Cutthroat Trout are catch/release only and the season is open all year. Mountain Whitefish are also present, and they can be kept all year at 25/day. 
Check out Pages 41-42 in the 2013-2015 Fishing Regulation for more information, which you can download here:
Even though you have a mining claim, a fishing license is still required. All fishing in Idaho requires a fishing license, unless you are fishing a private pond where the owner has a valid private pond permit. 
You can buy a license all over the state at many local vendors, or buy it online. Now you can even buy your license using your mobile phone!

answered 9/18/2015

Q: chinook in lucky peak

Will chinook ever be planted in lucky peak? I caught one last week but would imagine it made its way down from anderson?


I wouldn't rule-out fall Chinook being stocked in Lucky Peak Reservoir because it's a fish management tool we often use on other bodies of water to control Kokanee populations.  The difference with Lucky Peak Reservoir is there is very little natural Kokanee reproduction that occurs in tributaries to the reservoir, so we have tight control over the Lucky Peak Kokanee population.
The fall Chinook fishery in Anderson Ranch Reservoir has become very popular over the past few years.  These are the same fish we use in Lake Coeur d'Alene to provide a fishery.  If public desire for this type of fishery grows, we may consider expanding stocking into other waters with Kokanee as a forage fish.

answered 9/12/2015

Q: Steelhead Salmon Rules Defined

In the regulations it states that if you catch your daily limit of steelhead or salmon you must cease fishing. So my question is: while fishing in an area where you can keep steelhead, chinook salmon, and now coho salmon do you have to cease fishing for all three species after you fill your limit for just one species? I ask because I catch all three species with a very similar technique and may obviously hook any species. I would like clarification so I do not get a ticket due to ignorance.


Very good question.
When we write the rule pamphlets we often don't take into account how they may effect other species and fishing opportunities.  To answer your question, I went to the Administrative Rules section of Idaho Code.
For Steelhead, when you reach your daily bag limit, you only need to stop fishing for Steelhead as per IDAPA  This means you can no longer target Steelhead - but you can still fish for Fall Chinook and Coho or resident fish species.  When an officer contacts you in the field and you show him you have filled your bag limit for Steelhead and then he asks you, "what are you trying to catch" the correct answer is, "anything but Steelhead."
In the case of Fall Chinook and Coho - things are a little more tricky.  IDAPA says, when you reach your daily bag limit for salmon you need to stop fishing for salmon.  When the rule was written, we did not consider the overlap between Coho and Fall Chinook.  In practical terms, your chances of catching bag limits for either species is very slim.  If you have your bag limit of Coho and are approched by an officer, when he asks the question, "what are you trying to catch" specifically state, "Fall Chinook" - unless that stretch of the river is closed to the take of Fall Chinook. 

answered 8/29/2015

Q: Coho or Chinook in Anderson Ranch?

A friend recently told me that during the summer he caught a Chinook salmon at Anderson Ranch Reservoir while fishing for Kokanee. I told him it was most likely a Coho and not Chinook, but he insists it was Chinook. Today he sent me a photo of that fish, and as one might imagine, I cannot see the gum line at all (the fish's mouth is closed), and it is not a clear enough photo to detect spots on the upper or lower lobes of the tail. So with no other evidence available, my question is: are there Chinook in Anderson Ranch? BTW, it is most certainly not a Kokanee and therefore must be a Coho or Chinook.


I hope you didn't have a wager with your friend. 
Fall Chinook Salmon have been stocked numerous times over the years in Anderson Ranch Reservoir as a management tool to control/reduce Kokanee Salmon numbers so they grow at an optimum size to provide a quality fishery.  Fall Chinook forage in the same level in the water column as Kokanee and are very efficient at eating Kokanee.  They also provide an exciting fishery because of the size they reach at 4 and 5 years of age.  We had a picture sent us recently of a Fall Chinook Salmon from Anderson Ranch Reservoir that was in excess of 30" and 15 pounds.

answered 8/24/2015

Q: Coho salmon season in Idaho.

A news release dated Aug 11, 2015 says setting a season for coho salmon is difficult, because they don't have early maturing Jacks, but jack coho salmon are being counted at the dams on the Columbia. Which is incorrect? Thank you.


Yes, you found our mistake in that news release. Coho do produce jacks, males that mature and return after only one year in the ocean, just like Chinook salmon. What was meant is that coho returns to the Snake River are difficult to predict because we don't have a lot of years of returns to use in our forecast models, most importantly the jack returns one year and the adult returns in the next year. The return of coho salmon to the Snake River is still quite new. After we acquire a few more years of data, we should be able to start making some forecasts of the coho return.

answered 8/14/2015

Q: Salmon on the Middlefork Salmon River

Does the Idaho Fish & Game keep track of the Chinook Salmon's come back on the MIddle fork of the Salmon River? If so, how many fish are running during an average season on the Middlefork?


The short answer is yes.  Idaho Department of Fish and Game has a long history of monitoring chinook salmon returns to the Middle Fork Salmon River and its tributaries.  In 2014 we estimated 2,607 wild chinook salmon spawned in the Middle Fork Salmon drainage.
The longer answer is  standardized counting began in the 1950's with biologists counting chinook salmon redds (the nests salmon make in the bottom of the stream) from airplanes and helicopters.  From those early counts we develop estimates of spawning escapement to specific populations within the Middle Fork Salmon drainage.  Most recently the monitoring has been a collaborative effort between Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the Nez Perce Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountian Research Station.  Most of the data for individual populations will be available shortly on the Follow Idaho Salmon Home website linked here
We are in the process of updating the website with the most current data.
Thanks for your interest in Idaho's Wild Salmon!
Program Coordinator for Endangered Steelhead and Salmon

answered 7/27/2015

Q: How often will salmon be dropped into boise river?

Salmon were dropped last thursday, will they be dropped every week?


End of June is probably the last time we will stock Chinook Salmon in the Boise River.  We only bring fish from Oxbow (mid-Snake River) or Rapid River (near Riggins) because we know these fish are of hatchery stock origin. 
By early July, the body of these fish are breaking-down (they haven't eaten since they left the ocean in March and April) and they are starting to stage to begin the final phase of their life - spawning.  They don't handle the stress of transportation very well and their flesh quality is questionable.
Enjoy the fish we've stocked in the Boise River and hope we have a large enough return next year of surplus fish to provide this unique fishing opportunity in the middle of Idaho's largest city.

answered 6/25/2015


Can I fish anywhere/anytime for salmon/steelhead with a tag and license if catching and releasing? Even if the season is closed/area is closed?


Fishing for or targeting salmon/steelhead is prohibited unless a steelhead season is specifically opened for that water. 
In other words, no salmon/steelhead fishing (including catch/release) is allowed unless there is an open season for that river location.
Steelhead rules can be found on our IDFG website, or download them here:
Salmon seasons change annually, so watch the IDFG website for information on current seasons on our salmon fishing website:

answered 6/19/2015

Q: eating wild pacific chinook salmon

What process should be followed to ensure the chinook salmon i have caught is okay to eat? I have read that saltwater kills many parasites and bacteria but these fish are caught in a freshwater river, are there parasites and worms in chinook salmon caught in the little salmon river? Can chinooks be eaten raw such as use in sushi? If there are worms, parasites, or other harmful organisms in chinook salmon what do I do to remove there or should the fish be thrown out it they are found?


Chinook salmon caught from the Little Salmon River are generally safe to eat. IDFG recommends following the USDA and FDA guidelines for safely handling and preparing your catch to prevent foodborne illness. If you will be eating fish within 2 days of catching it, make sure to store your fish on ice. Otherwise store it in the freezer.
The safest way to prepare your salmon will be to cook it thoroughly, which will kill harmful parasites if present. While parasites may be present in some fish, they are usually less common in saltwater fish. For this reason, most sushi preparations focus on saltwater species, and those that live in the open ocean (like tunas, yellow tail, mackerel, salmon) and not bottom fish (like halibut).
It's always best to cook seafood thoroughly to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. However, if you choose to eat raw fish anyway, one rule of thumb is to eat fish that has been previously frozen - usually as cold as possible. Try to freeze fish at temperatures of at least -14 deg F, or lower to better preserve flesh quality. Some species of fish can contain parasites, and freezing will kill any parasites that may be present. However, be aware that freezing doesn't kill all harmful microorganisms. That's why the safest route is to cook your seafood.
Freshly caught salmon can be used for sushi preparations, but this is a personal judgement. Safely handling and storing your fish will be more important to preventing foodborne illness than parasites. You must understand the risks and use appropriate caution. 
IDFG recommends that you review some of the food safety guidelines at these links:

answered 6/17/2015

Q: 2nd salmon permit

With all the salmon we have this year I was wondering if fish and game was going to let us buy a 2nd permit for another 20 fish.


Sorry, you only get one salmon permit for the spring/summer Chinook season.  The first 20 notches are to record Chinook salmon from the Spring and Summer Chinook seasons.  The second group of 20 notches are for the Fall Chinook and Coho season.

answered 6/2/2015

Q: Expected hatchery salmon returns Pahsimeroi hatchery 2015?

What are the expected hatchery salmon returns to the Pahsimeroi this year?


Our preseason forcast for Spring Chinook returning to Pahsimeroi was just over 2,100 adults.  Incomplete PIT tag data is currently suggesting numbers may be less than our forecast - but it's still early and subject to change.

answered 6/1/2015

Q: chinook Salmon juvenile or adult

How do I tell the difference between an adult Chinook and a juvenile chinook.


Are we talking about a water with landlocked Fall Chinook or a river system that Chinook Salmon can use to reach the ocean?
Anadromous (ocean-going) juvenile Chinook are typically defined as being two years of age or less.  They will be 3 - 5" in length - depending on their diet and water temperatures.  At approixmately 18 months of age they begin to smolt (body change to adapt to salt water).  They become silvery and usually begin their downstream migration to the ocean.  When they return to fresh water (1 - 3 years later) they are considered adults.  Chinook Salmon that live one year in the ocean are mostly males and will be 20 - 24" in length.  Two and three-ocean fish will be considerably larger.
Land-locked Chinook Salmon are stocked in several locations around Idaho to help manage Kokanee Salmon populations.  They are raised in a fish hatchery for their first year of life and will grow to 8 - 10".  When stocked in reservoirs they typically begin eating juvenile Kokanee and add roughly 8 - 10" of length per year.  Land-locked Fall Chinook will live 4 - 5 years in most Idaho reservoirs.  Most are unsuccessful at naturally reproducing.

answered 5/31/2015

Q: Chinook hatchery returns

Will they be updating the hatchery returns this year here on the website?


The short answer is yes.  Hatcheries are starting to trap chinook salmon and we are finalizing our website content and procedures for updating the trapping numbers.
As of May 7, Rapid River had trapped 7 adipse fin clipped adult chinook salmon and Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery (on the Clearwater) had trapped 2 adipose fin clipped adults.
Browse to the hatchery returns.

answered 5/8/2015

Q: Landlocked chinook salmon catch limit

What are the rules for chinook salmon in Anderson ranch resevoir


In Idaho Code, landlocked salmon are considered "trout" unless otherwise denoted.  In the case of Anderson Ranch Reservoir, Fall Chinook salmon are included in your daily trout bag limit.  Therefore, you can keep 6 "trout/Fall Chinook" per day.

answered 5/7/2015