Low numbers prompt IDFG to shut down Chinook fishing in Clearwater River
Beginning today, the IDFG commission closed the spring Chinook season on the Clearwater River because of low returns.
Returns of spring Chinook show that fewer fish are expected in the Clearwater than needed to support brood stock numbers, but anglers can pursue Chinook in the Little Salmon and Rapid rivers.
Staff Writer | May 14, 2020 1:00 AM
Idaho Fish and Game has closed fishing for Chinook salmon throughout the Clearwater River system upstream from Lewiston.
Returns to the Clearwater River are below forecast and no harvest share is available, according to Idaho Fish and Game.
In his analysis of this year’s Chinook salmon run, fishery manager Joe DuPont said he estimates that just enough fish will make it back to system to meet brood needs, which leaves no fish available for angler harvest.
“Our first priority is meeting broodstock needs at our hatcheries,” DuPont said. “When returns are not high enough to fill our hatcheries, we have to close down the fisheries.” Idaho Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever signed the emergency order Wednesday that prohibits spring Chinook salmon fishing in the Clearwater River and its tributaries. Fishing on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers was still open Wednesday but commissioners and biologists will meet today to determine if rule modifications should be adopted.
So far this year, anglers caught 18 fish in the Clearwater including seven that had to be released because they were not hatchery fish.
The 11 harvested fish were caught from shore and boats between Lewiston to Cherrylane Bridge, according to Fish and Game.
The first Chinook caught this season was hooked a week ago near the mouth of the Little Salmon River.
“It seems that every year we get one salmon that makes it to Rapid River hatchery way before the rest,” DuPont said. “It looks like this year a lucky angler caught that early fish.” Since then, no other non-adipose catches were documented in the Salmon or Little Salmon rivers.
The total number of Chinook expected in the Clearwater is around 4,400, which is below what is needed to maintain brood stock.
Returns to the Rapid River hatchery are expected to be about 12,400, allowing approximately 550 fish for anglers to harvest in the Rapid River and Little Salmon rivers, according to Fish and Game.
The number of returning fish are lower than last year, and far lower than the 10-year average.