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Idaho spring chinook run ahead of Fish and Game predictions

Spring chinook are persevering with to make a powerful exhibiting at Bonneville Dam.

More than 62,500 grownup springers have been counted within the dam’s fish ladder this month. That contains practically 13,500 final Tuesday alone and greater than 7,000 final Wednesday. The season complete, from March 15 by way of May 9, is greater than 72,000.

That is one of the best to-date depend since 2016, when greater than 76,000 handed the dam throughout the identical time-frame. For context, it lags behind the 153,803 counted in 2015 and pales compared to the 326,271 counted in 2001. But it’s a good exhibiting and positively higher than the depressing depend of simply over 9,000 in 2017. The 10-year common, which has been declining over the previous 5 years, is about 50,000.

Joe DuPont, regional fisheries supervisor on the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, mentioned it now seems as if the run will exceed the company’s preseason forecast. The division is now forecasting the run may very well be sturdy sufficient to permit a harvest share of about 5,200 grownup chinook on the Clearwater River and 4,119 on the decrease and Little Salmon rivers.

It’s good to see, particularly after 5 years of disappointing returns, however DuPont isn’t stunned. That’s as a result of the run has been trending very slowly upward because it bottomed out in 2017.

“If you look at trends over time, when the run is declining from one year to the next, we tend to overestimate, and when the run is increasing from one year to the next, we tend to underestimate.”

Chinook runs can spike and plunge as quick as a 30-pound springer can spool line. But DuPont is happy the height of this run appears to have some endurance.

“The fact that we have been seeing counts above 3,000 fish for over a week and many days over 6,000, that is a good sign that it’s not just going to drop off to really low numbers.”

Anglers can count on good fishing as soon as the fish arrive in Idaho, but it surely has taken longer than regular for them to get right here. That seems to be altering. A bottleneck developed beneath Lower Monumental Dam the place the Army Corps of Engineers stopped spilling water at 4 of the dam’s eight spillgates so it may restore worn elements. The work modified the hydraulics beneath the dam, basically creating an eddy in entrance of the fish ladder and making it tough for returning grownup salmon to seek out the doorway.

Two of the spillways have been returned to service, and it seems as if it might need mounted the issue. The variety of chinook passing Lower Monumental jumped from about 100 final Monday to almost 900 the next day and greater than 1,000 that Wednesday. Repairs on the opposite two spillways might take one other week or extra to finish.

DuPont mentioned if hydraulics proceed to trigger delays on the dam, Fish and Game and the Nez Perce Tribe are ready to ask the corps to cease spilling water so grownup fish can extra simply discover the attractant movement from the fish ladder. Doing so might include a price to juvenile fish migrating downstream, however DuPont mentioned it might seemingly be a brief time period operation.

If the issue is mounted, DuPont mentioned it’s seemingly the delayed grownup fish will storm upriver. Anglers ready to catch that slug of salmon may very well be in for good fishing.

“My advice to you is to keep an eye on the dam counts so you can plan when to be on the river. If there are not additional fish passage issues, the fish should be able to get from Lower Monumental Dam to the lower Clearwater River in 3-5 days,” he wrote in his weekly run replace, which is accessible on-line at bit.ly/3kIvv1f.

Only 406 grownup chinook had been counted at Lower Granite Dam as of Wednesday.

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