Chinook counts explode at Bonneville Dam

Idaho Fish and Game Fisheries managers are confident of 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.

By comparison, 1,151 fish have crossed Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River about 30 miles downstream from Lewiston. Through Wednesday, April 30, 78,662 chinook has passed Bonneville. 

Although current counts of the 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 sixth 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 which is 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.

 Fisheries managers say it is still too early to know 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 30 an estimated 10,000 hatchery chinook salmon destined for the Clearwater basin have 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.