LEWISTON — Washington is expected to open limited spring Chinook fishing seasons at hatcheries along two stretches of the Snake River, but not at Clarkston.
Chris Donley, manager of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fishing program in Spokane, said the season will be similar to last year, with fishing near Little Goose Dam on Tuesdays and Fridays and near the Ice on Wednesdays and Thursdays Harbor Dam is allowed.
“We’re not planning Clarkston. We don’t really have enough fish for that,” he said.
Donley expects anglers on the Snake to have a collective catch quota of approximately 670 spring chinook adults and a daily catch limit of one adult fish. He said that could mean eight days of fishing once the run starts to show.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, at a March 16 meeting, approved spring chinook fishing on the Lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers near Riggins and on the Clearwater River and several of its tributaries. The season starts at the end of next month. Anglers on the Clearwater River and its tributaries are expected to catch about 2,500 adult fish, anglers fishing on the Lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers can harvest about 3,800 adult fish, and about 700 Chinook are forecast to be available for the harvest near Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River.
State and tribal fisheries managers forecast that nearly 200,000 jumpers heading to the Columbia River tributaries upstream of the Bonneville Dam will enter the Columbia River estuary, including 85,900 toward the Snake River.
The overall forecast beats last year’s forecast of about 123,000 as well as the actual return of about 185,000. But the Snake River forecast calls for fewer than the 103,000 adult Chinooks that returned last year, and most of the expected return will be hatchery fish.
Forecasters expect a poor return for the Snake River’s wild spring Chinooks — just 13,200 compared to 23,000 who returned in the 2022 fishing ban. The fish face multiple threats, including mortality and injury from passing dams in the Snake and Columbia Rivers, predation, and the effects of climate change.
Yields have been so low in recent years that some populations are at an increased risk known as the near-extinction line, according to research by the Nez Perce tribe.
The fish had to contend with a number of poor sea conditions. But that seemed to break in 2021, when conditions were ranked as the second-best on record over a 25-year record. Ocean conditions have been mixed over the past year, ranking 11th for the past 25 years.
Donley warns anglers to prepare for another fall that could impose restrictions or limited bag limits for steelheads.
“People shouldn’t expect it to be a good Steelhead year. It looks like the worst forecast on record, or close to it.
“I don’t expect it to be great anywhere, but we will fish,” he said. “It will look similar to what we’ve been doing since 2017.”
Fishing Seasons target Hatchery Steelhead. Wild Snake River steelheads are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and anglers are prohibited from catching these fish.