ENTERPRISE, Ore. — Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed the Snake River spring Chinook fishery, while opening the fall Chinook harvest season beginning Tuesday.
“The spring Chinook fishery essentially died a natural death,” said Kyle Bratcher, the Wallowa District Fish Biologist. “The fish aren’t there anymore and the anglers have moved on, too.”
Fisheries biologists expect nearly 15,000 fall Chinook, including about 9,500 hatchery fish, to cross Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston, Idaho.
About half of those fish will be bound for the Clearwater River in Idaho with the other half bound for the Snake and Salmon Rivers.
Though the fishery will open Tuesday, fall Chinook will not likely be available to anglers until September when fish arrive in greater numbers.
“Fall Chinook fishing in the Snake River has been one of our more consistent opportunities,” said Bratcher. “Despite seeing reduced anadromous runs across the board, we still have enough fall Chinook to offer a season to salmon anglers.”
Snake River fall Chinook saw returns of fewer than 1,000 fish annually from 1975 to 1995.
Since then, abundance has steadily increased with record counts of more than 50,000 fish crossing Lower Granite Dam in 2013 and 2014.
Fisheries managers were able to begin offering fall Chinook fisheries in 2009 and have opened seasons every year since.
Like last year, this year’s bag limit includes one wild (unclipped) Chinook per day.
While some true wild fish will be harvested, biologists estimate about 60 percent of fish with intact adipose fins are actually unclipped hatchery fish.