UPDATED 3:30 P.M.
One of the best days for springers in recent years occurred at Bonneville yesterday — the 17th highest single-day count on record, according to the Idaho Department of Fish & Game.
A total of 17,409 spring Chinook were counted at the dam April 30, the best day so far this year, better than all days during 2013’s run and higher than all but one in 2012 — May 9th’s 18,436, which was the sixth best day recorded going back to the late 1930s.
It brings the count for this year to 78,662, which is also nearly 32,900 fish above the 10-year average. Managers forecast around 227,000 springers bound for tribs east of Bonneville this year.
Below the dam the sport fleet and bank brigade kept just over 9,000 of them in March and April. Another 1,511 were scooped up by commercials on their April 1 fishery.
This can be peak timing for fishing at Wind River and Drano Lake, just 10 and 21 miles above the plug. PIT tag data shows 384 tagged springers going through the dam over the past week, with 30 and 12 headed to those two Gorge tribs, but most to Idaho.
Fishery managers will meet sometime soon — possibly before they otherwise had planned — to look at the run and perhaps update the forecast which could allow for additional days on the water below Bonneville.
The big day and tally for the year certainly has Gem State fishery managers pretty stoked. They fired off the following press release this afternoon:
2014 Spring/Summer Chinook Salmon Run Will Meet or Exceed Preseason Forecast
Fisheries managers are expressing confidence about a strong Chinook salmon season in Idaho after recent increases in the number of fish being counted in the Columbia River, including more than 17,000 counted passing Bonneville Dam in one day.
Although current counts of the upriver 2014 spring Chinook run at Bonneville are only reflective of the front half of the run, those numbers have been robust and Idaho’s fishery managers are now fairly certain the run will come in at, or above the pre-season forecast. That is good news on top of good news for Idaho salmon anglers because the forecast already predicted the 6th highest return in the last 20 years. Thousands of salmon are passing Bonneville Dam each day, including Wednesday, April 30, when workers counted 17,409 Chinook (the 17th highest single-day count on record).
Most of the Idaho bound salmon counted in the front half of the run are headed to the Clearwater River basin, the Hells Canyon reach of the Snake River and the Rapid River Hatchery in the Salmon River basin near Riggins. There are already enough spring Chinook over Bonneville Dam to support good fisheries in the Clearwater and Lower Salmon rivers and more are on the way. It is still too early to pin down how many fish will be available for harvest but it’s safe to say it will be significantly more than were available in 2013 – especially in the Clearwater River. Through April 30th an estimated 10,000 hatchery Chinook salmon destined for the Clearwater basin have already crossed Bonneville Dam. Last year only 6,700 Clearwater River hatchery Chinook crossed during the entire run.
Salmon fisheries opened in the Clearwater River basin, Hells Canyon of the Snake River and reaches of the lower Salmon River on April 26. Fishery managers expect good numbers of salmon in the lower Clearwater River by this weekend and fishable numbers of salmon should start showing up in the lower Salmon River about one week to 10 days later. Anglers should check the regulations for details including fishing area descriptions and bag limits.
Chinook returning to the South Fork Salmon River and hatcheries in the upper Salmon River typically arrive at Bonneville Dam during the latter part of the run. Managers are optimistic those stocks will also meet preseason expectations based on this year’s performance of the earlier arriving stocks. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider fishery proposals for the South Fork Salmon River and areas in the upper Salmon River on May 15, 2014.