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Fall chinook fishing on the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers will open Aug. 18, and Sept. 17 for the North Fork Clearwater River got approved by the Idaho Fish & Game Commission last Thursday, July 23.

This marks the second year of fall chinook fishing upstream of Memorial Bridge on the Clearwater River.

Idaho Fish and Game fisheries managers anticipate 18,150 adult fish may return to Lower Granite Dam in 2020, compared with 16,508 that actually returned last year.

Of the fish returning, managers are forecasting 11,560 hatchery chinook and 6,590 natural origin. For the second straight year, fall chinook anglers will have the opportunity to harvest some salmon with intact adipose fins.

Fall chinook are unique and are managed separately from other chinook runs in Idaho, and the majority of hatchery fall chinook released throughout the Snake River basin are not marked with a clipped adipose fin. Of the fish that return to the Snake River Basin, a high proportion are adipose-intact hatchery fish.

A joint fisheries management plan submitted by Idaho, Oregon and Washington was approved by the federal government in 2019, allowing seasons in which some adipose-intact fall chinook can be harvested. Based on that plan and the forecasted run sizes for 2020, the harvest share for Idaho’s fall chinook season will be about 1,400 adipose-intact and 1,700 adipose clipped adult chinook. Around half of the harvest will be allocated to the fish destined for the Snake and Salmon rivers, and the other half to the Clearwater River.

Second year of experimental season in section of Clearwater River

The fall chinook season on the Clearwater River upstream of Memorial Bridge is considered an experimental season, which is now in its second year. In 2019, this experimental fishery was structured in a manner to inform a citizen working group called the Clearwater River Fisheries Working Group on how a fall chinook salmon fishery could mesh with the popular catch-and-release steelhead fishery in the Clearwater River basin.

However, due to poor steelhead returns to the Clearwater River, fisheries managers closed the steelhead season on September 29 to help meet hatchery broodstock goals. In addition, many people were unaware of the new fall chinook salmon fishery that was opened in the Clearwater. The combination of these events led to low fishing effort for both salmon and steelhead. As a result, fisheries managers’ assessment of how this new fall chinook salmon fishery would influence the catch-and-release steelhead fishery was potentially biased, and the commission approved the second experimental season to provide additional, and potentially more accurate information to the working group.

The following areas open to fishing for fall chinook:

Clearwater River – Aug. 18 – from its mouth upstream to the confluence of the Middle Fork Clearwater and South Fork Clearwater rivers

North Fork Clearwater River – Sept. 17 – from its mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam

Salmon River – Aug. 18 –  from its mouth upstream to the Twin Bridges boat ramp:

Snake River –  Aug. 18 – from the Washington/Idaho border upstream to Hells Canyon Dam

Closing Dates

Clearwater River and North Fork Clearwater River – Closure upon notice or midnight on October 18, 2020, whichever comes first

Salmon River and that part of the Snake River downstream of Cliff Mountain Rapids (River Mile 246.7)-Closure upon notice or October 31, 2020, whichever comes first

Snake River–from Hells Canyon Dam downstream to Cliff Mountain Rapids (River Mile 246.7)-Closure upon notice or November 30, 2020, whichever comes first

Fishing Days

Clearwater River from mouth to Memorial Bridge – Fishing for fall chinook salmon is open 7 days per week

Clearwater River from Memorial Bridge upstream to the confluence of the Middle Fork Clearwater and South Fork Clearwater rivers – Fishing for fall chinook salmon is open 4 days per week, Thursday through Sunday

North Fork Clearwater River – Fishing for fall chinook salmon is open 4 days per week, Thursday through Sunday

Snake River and Salmon River – Fishing for fall chinook salmon is open 7 days per week

Limits

Bag (Daily): Three adult fall chinook salmon, only one may have an adipose fin

Possession: Nine adult fall chinook salmon, only three may have an adipose fin

Season: There is no limit on the number of adult fall chinook salmon that can be harvested during the fall chinook season. (All adult chinook salmon that are harvested must be recorded on a salmon permit)

Jack fall chinook: Anglers can retain any jack fall chinook salmon (adipose-clipped or unclipped) if they have a valid salmon permit. There are no daily bag, possession or season limits for jack fall chinook salmon. Anglers are not required to record jack fall chinook salmon on their salmon permit

Full rules and regulations will be available online in early August and at regional Fish and Game offices prior to the season opener.

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