Idaho chinook season opens Saturday

Apr. 26—The spring chinook run at Bonneville Dam is off to one of its better starts since 2016.

As of Wednesday, more than 8,800 adult spring chinook were counted using the dam's fish ladders. While that ranks second only to the 9,513 recorded in 2022, returns over the nine-year span have ranged from dismal at worst to modest at best.

For context, in 2016 nearly 15,000 adult spring chinook passed Bonneville Dam by April 24. But just one year earlier, more than 77,000 adult spring chinook had been counted there during the same timespan. By 2017, it plummeted to just 1,732 and it was even worse in 2018.

Idaho's spring chinook salmon fishing seasons on the Clearwater River system, the lower and Little Salmon rivers and the Snake River in Hells Canyon open Saturday. Through Wednesday, only about 50 adult spring chinook had been counted at Lower Granite Dam west of Clarkston. The 10-year average is just more than 200.

State, tribal and federal fisheries managers are not expecting a large return of adult springers this year. Anglers on the Clearwater River will be able to harvest a total of about 1,360 adult spring chinook, according to a preseason forecast.

Another preseason forecast calls for anglers on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers to be able to harvest about 2,500 adult spring chinook bound for the Rapid River Hatchery near Riggins.

After the opener, the Clearwater River and its tributaries and the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers will be open for chinook fishing Thursdays through Sundays and anglers will be allowed to catch only one adult hatchery fish per day in their daily bag limit of up to four hatchery salmon.

The Snake River from Dug Bar to Hells Canyon Dam will be open to chinook fishing seven days per week starting Saturday. Anglers there can keep two adult chinook per day in their daily bag limit of up to four hatchery chinook.

Barker may be contacted at or at (208) 848-2273.