Chinook numbers could mean open season in Stanley

Ketchum, Idaho (AP) 4-08

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission might open a sport fishing season for spring chinook on the upper Salmon River for the first time in 31 years.

The commission is to meet next month to consider a proposal by Department of Fish and Game biologists to allow a season from Stanley downstream to Clayton.

Fish and Game biologist Sam Sharr said dates have yet to be determined, but the season, if approved, would likely start in mid-June. He said an ending date hasn’t been discussed.

“There are people who have been waiting almost a lifetime for that fishery to return,” said Sharr. “This is an opportunity for people to once again participate in a historic fishery.”

He said a good run of 4-year-old spring chinook is expected this year based on the number of 3-year-old jack salmon that returned to the area last year. Jack salmon are fish that spend just one year in the ocean instead of two.

Sharr said about 2,300 hatchery fish are expected. The hatchery upstream of Stanley needs 700 to produce future runs. Sharr said the remainder of the hatchery run is split between tribal and sport anglers, meaning that sport anglers will be allowed to catch about 600 to 800 spring chinook salmon.

“It would be a plus for all of us,” Zac Mayhew, a fishing guide with Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum, told the Idaho Mountain Express.

Mayhew said he might head to Stanley to fish for chinook if river conditions were low enough to allow fly fishing.

Sharr said the chinook will weigh about 12 to 14 pounds.

Spring chinook have likely entered the Columbia River by now, he said, on their journey of more than 800 river miles to central Idaho.

The run of hatchery spring chinook in the Columbia Basin is predicted to be nearly 270,000 fish.

Higher than expected catch rates have led Oregon and Washington fishery managers to announce a 12:01 a.m. Monday closing for all sport fishing for spring chinook in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam. The season was initially scheduled to end April 30.

Fishing above Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam is scheduled to remain open through May 10.

Fish and Game said that only nine chinook had crossed Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. The number crossing the dam typically peaks in early June.