Spring Chinook season closes on Snake River, fall Chinook season starts Aug. 18

Snake River

Photo Credit: Courtesy of ODFW

by OR Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff

Enterprise, Ore. – ODFW will close the Snake River spring Chinook fishery effective Friday while fall Chinook harvest season begins on Aug. 18, 2020.
“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,” Bratcher added.

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 Aug.18, 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,” Bratcher added. 

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 over 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.

The regulations for the 2020 Snake River fall Chinook season are as follows:

Effective Aug. 18 through Oct. 31, 2020, or until further notice, the Snake River from the Oregon-Washington border upstream to the deadline below Hells Canyon Dam will be open to fall Chinook harvest. The reach from Cliff Mountain Rapids (1.1 miles below Hells Canyon Dam) upstream to the deadline below Hells Canyon Dam will remain open to fall Chinook harvest through Nov. 20, 2020. The daily bag limit is three (3) fall Chinook per day of which one (1) may be wild; with no daily, possession, or season limits on marked or un-marked jack salmon (less than or equal to 24 inches in length). Anglers must cease fishing for salmon for the day when they retain three (3) salmon (non-jack). Barbless hooks are required.

Anglers are reminded to check for updated regulations regularly as rules for wild fall Chinook may change as harvest limits are reached. Find the latest by checking the Angling Zone in the Recreation Report, https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/snake-zone

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