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Fall chinook, steelhead seasons open Thursday; 38,000 chinook expected

Fall chinook and steelhead seasons open Sept. 1, and the forecast is for an above-average chinook run and an average steelhead run. It’s early in the run for both fish, and the numbers can change quickly as these migratory fish leave the ocean and swim upstream to Idaho.

Harvest season for steelhead opens Sept. 1 in the Snake, Salmon and Lower Clearwater rivers, and for fall chinook season opens in the Snake, Clearwater, and a short section of the Lower Salmon.

The chinook forecast is for 38,200 hatchery and naturally spawned fish to return to Idaho, which should provide excellent late-summer and fall fishing.

Through Aug. 28, 98,461 chinook have crossed Bonneville Dam, which is the first dam on the Columbia River the fish cross after leaving the ocean. Of those, 4,232 have crossed Lower Granite Dam downstream from Lewiston, which is the last dam the fish cross before reaching Idaho. By comparison, the Bonneville count so far is about 8,000 more chinook than last year at the same time, and also above the five-year average.

This year's steelhead run is expected to be about average at 70,000 hatchery fish. Through Aug. 28, 5,227 steelhead have crossed Lower Granite Dam, which is below the 5-year average of 8,343 for that date, but well ahead of 3,652 for that date last year. Biologists have noted fewer returning steelhead that spent one year in the ocean in this year’s return, which could mean fewer steelhead overall, but a greater proportion of larger fish that spent two years in the ocean.

As hundreds of steelhead and salmon arrive daily, anglers can take advantage of them as they tend to congregate near the mouth of the Clearwater River because of the cooler water. As the season progresses into fall and waters cool, the fish tend to disperse throughout the river systems.

Find information such as research, seasons and rules, weekly harvest reports and dam counts online at


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