(be sure to read the official 2013 IDFG Chinook season rules for specific area regulations)
As promised, I am letting you all know what the Commission decided today (4/30/13) for Idaho’s spring Chinook salmon rules (Clearwater, Rapid River and Hells Canyon releases). Before I get into the rules, I want to go over what we are projecting for a harvest share for the different areas in the Clearwater Region to help you understand why the Commission decided on the rules they did. The first thing we are dealing with is our projected harvest is still bouncing around from day to day as it seems one day a group of PIT-tagged fish destined for a certain area will pass over Bonneville Dam, and then the next day there may be none. This in turn is resulting in some uncertainty on the timing of this year’s spring Chinook run. If you look at the 3rd and 4th columns in the table below you will see the number of fish we project to come over Bonneville Dam varies considerably between whether the run has an average or late timing or somewhere in between. For example, for the Clearwater River total, there is almost an 8,000 fish difference between our average timing and late timing run projections (to Bonneville Dam). If you will look at the last three columns in the table below, it shows the projected harvest share for different areas based on different run timings. You probably noticed that there is an additional column (the last one) in this table that I have not shown before. This column shows our best guess on what the harvest share will be based on the timing of previous years that seem to be similar to what we are seeing this year (somewhere between an average and late timing). If these numbers hold true, the harvest share for the entire Clearwater run would be around 200 adult fish, the Rapid River run would be around 2,500 adult fish, and the Hells Canyon run would be around 400 adult fish. I’m sure what many of you are thinking is, “how can the harvest share for the entire Clearwater River be so low when the projected run size is similar to what we are projecting for Rapid River”. Here is the explanation. The main reason is, the broodstock needs on the Clearwater River are much higher than for the Rapid River which means we need to collect a lot more fish in the Clearwater to fill our hatcheries. For every fish it takes to fill our hatcheries is a fish we can’t harvest. For those of you who critically look at this table, you may have noticed a difference in what I have reported for the broodstock needs below than what we showed in the past. The main reason for this difference is in the South Fork Clearwater River, for every two fish that escape through all the fisheries, we are only able to trap one. This in essence means we need to let twice as many fish escape through the fishery to meet our brood needs for this release site. Yes, believe me, I recognize this is a problem we need to fix, and I can tell you we are working on it. The other issue is we also release a group of fish at the Selway River that we cannot collect for brood stock and is why it is not included in the Clearwater Total. We will keep track of how many of these fish we think we harvest separately. In past years we harvested about 25% of these fish (essentially we could add around 25% of the Selway harvest share to the total Clearwater release).
Setting rules and managing the Rapid River and Hells Canyon runs if fairly easy based on their projected harvest shares, but trying to manage a harvest share of around 200 fish spread across multiple communities in the Clearwater River basin becomes very difficult and is why you will notice the rule for the Clearwater Region are very restrictive and complex (see attachments above). Recognize that when setting these rules, we tried to listen to the desires of all anglers while still trying to meet our other management needs (brood stock, harvest share, ability to accurately evaluate harvest).
· For the Rapid River return, we will start with a 4-fish daily limit with no more than 2 being adults. The season will be 7 days a week and will end upon further notice. Please refer this link for season rules
· For the Hells Canyon Return, we will start with a 4-fish daily limit with no more than 1 being an adult. The season will be 7 days a week and will end upon further notice. Please refer to this link for season rules.
· Finally, for Clearwater River, we will start with a 4-fish daily limit with no more than 1 being an adult. The season will be 4 days a week (Friday – Monday) and will end upon further notice. Please refer to this link for season rules. As you read the details above for the Clearwater River, you will notice that we have greatly reduced the areas where you will be allowed to fish. The reason for this is the more area we open the faster you can harvest your fish and less accurate we get in estimating this harvest. Remember, if this run holds true to our projection (let’s hope it increases), we will essentially be trying to distribute 200+ fish through all our communities and still provide both shore and boat fishing opportunities. In this case, everybody has to sacrifice, which means we may not be able to fish areas we have in the past, and the days we typically like to fish on (I know I can’t).
As always, if the run comes in different than we are projecting, we can adjust limits, days we are allowed to fish, and areas we are allowed to fish.
So there you have it. In some areas, I think people will be satisfied with these rules and in others, maybe not so much. This has certainly been tough on us in Idaho Fish and Game when setting these seasons and rules, as there is still a lot of uncertainty. We also know how important this fishery is to all of you, and it hurts to start the season with such restrictive rules in the Clearwater River drainage.
For some better news, the Jack run is starting out good. Let’s hope it continues as it could provide us some good fishing opportunities, and it is an indicator of good things to come.
Clearwater Region Fishery Manager
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
3316 16th Street
Lewiston, Idaho 83501