May 8, 2014

Chinook salmon surge toward Idaho

   Fisheries managers are optimistic about a strong Chinook salmon season in Idaho after recent increases in the number of fish being counted in the Columbia River, including more than 30,000 counted passing Bonneville Dam in two days.

   Although current counts of the upriver 2014 spring Chinook run at Bonneville are only reflective of the front half of the run Idaho's fisheries managers are confident these returns will provide robust fisheries to Idaho anglers. Thousands of salmon are passing Bonneville Dam each day, including Wednesday, April 30, when workers counted 17,409 Chinook (the 17th highest single-day count on record). By May 2, the total count at Bonneville had surpassed 100,000.

   Most of the Idaho bound salmon counted in the front half of the run are headed to the Clearwater River basin, the Hells Canyon reach of the Snake River and the Rapid River Hatchery in the Salmon River basin near Riggins. There are already enough spring Chinook over Bonneville Dam to support good fisheries in the Clearwater and Lower Salmon rivers and more are on the way. 

   It is still too early to pin down how many fish will be available for harvest but it's safe to say it will be significantly more than were available in 2013-especially in the Clearwater River. Through April 30, an estimated 10,000 hatchery Chinook salmon destined for the Clearwater basin have already crossed Bonneville Dam. Last year only 6,700 Clearwater River hatchery Chinook crossed during the entire run.

   Anglers fishing the lower Clearwater River experienced some success during the first weekend of May, and fishable numbers of Chinook salmon should start arriving in the lower Salmon River in a week to ten days. Anglers should check the regulations for details including fishing area descriptions and bag limits.

   Chinook returning to the South Fork Salmon River and hatcheries in the upper Salmon River typically arrive at Bonneville Dam during the latter part of the run. Managers are optimistic those stocks will also meet preseason expectations based on this year's performance of the earlier arriving stocks. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider fishery proposals for the South Fork Salmon River and areas in the upper Salmon River on May 15.