ENTERPRISE, Ore. – Spring Chinook season opened on the Snake River in Hells Canyon on May 17 from the Dug Bar boat ramp to the boundary below Hells Canyon Dam.
Snake River spring Chinook are currently migrating up the main stem Columbia River and arriving in the Oregon section of the Snake River. “While we aren’t expecting a lot of fish, there is a healthy public interest in this fishery and have decided to open so people can take advantage of that opportunity,” said Kyle Bratcher, ODFW District Fish Biologist in Enterprise. “We’re expecting anglers will catch mostly jacks with the occasional adult,” added Bratcher.
During the 2018 run year, collections of adult spring Chinook salmon at hatcheries in Idaho and Hells Canyon came up short of what was needed for ongoing production which prevented the release of juvenile spring Chinook into Hells Canyon in 2020. Because of that, very few adults are expected in 2022. However, current counts of jacks are strong at Bonneville Dam which suggests they could be available in this fishery.
The daily bag limit will be four hatchery Chinook per day of which only one may be an adult (adults are Chinook salmon over 24 inches long). Anglers must cease fishing for all salmon once they have retained one adult hatchery Chinook or four hatchery jack salmon, whichever comes first. Barbless hooks, an angling license, a combined angling tag, and a Columbia Basin Endorsement are required when angling for salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon in the Snake River. All other 2021 sport fishing regulations apply.
“This year, hatchery Chinook salmon returning to Hells Canyon will not be used for broodstock so all returning fish are available for harvest,” Bratcher said. “This fishing season will provide Oregon anglers an opportunity to try to catch some of these fish.”
Though broodstock will not be collected at Hells Canyon Dam in 2022, it is expected that production goals will be met elsewhere within the Snake Basin that will provide juveniles for future release at Hells Canyon Dam.
So far this year, modest numbers of spring Chinook have been counted migrating upstream past Bonneville Dam, and the counts of returning fish are much better than the low returns the last several years. Fishing for spring Chinook salmon in the Imnaha and Grande Ronde River basins remains closed. However, with improved counts, angling opportunities may be considered in Lookingglass Creek, the Wallowa River, and the Imnaha River. Fishery managers will monitor the run and assess these fishery options as the fish arrive.