Spring Chinook Fishing Opens Saturday (April 25) In Hells Canyon; Below Average Run Won’t Be Getting There For Awhile

Spring chinook season will open in Hells Canyon on April 25 from the Dug Bar boat ramp to the boundary below Hells Canyon Dam, said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife this week.

While fishing seasons remain open in Oregon to residents only, efforts should be maintained by participants to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Adherence to social distancing and other guidelines set forth in Gov. Brown’s Stay Home, Save Lives order will help prevent future closures. The order does allow for outdoor recreation, including fishing, as long as the guidelines for social distancing are followed.

Snake River spring chinook are currently migrating up the mainstem Columbia River and will be arriving in the Oregon section of the Snake in the upcoming weeks.

As of Wednesday, 2,298 spring chinook had passed Bonneville Dam.

 “Spring Chinook won’t be immediately available to anglers, but we like to have the season open when the fish show up,” said Kyle Bratcher, Acting District Fish Biologist in Enterprise.

“With chinook returns lagging in recent years, this is one of the better opportunities for folks in our area to get their hands on a springer,” said Bratcher.

The daily bag limit is four hatchery chinook per day of which only one may be an adult hatchery chinook salmon over 24 inches. 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 and a Columbia Basin Endorsement are required when angling for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in the Snake River. All other 2020 sport fishing regulations apply.

Managers with ODFW and Idaho Fish and Game expect a modest run of less than 2,000 hatchery spring chinook to return to Hells Canyon Dam.

“Unfortunately runs have suffered due to bad ocean conditions in recent years,” Bratcher said. “But, we’re glad to be able to provide some opportunity for northeast Oregon anglers.”

Hells Canyon will likely be one of the few spring chinook fisheries in Oregon’s Snake River Basin this year. Fishery managers expect that low returns will preclude fisheries in the Imnaha River.

However, if fish counts at mainstem dams are sufficient, opportunities may be available in the Wallowa River and Lookingglass Creek. Managers will make determinations on those fisheries as the run progresses through May.

For the latest on NE Oregon and Snake River fishing in-season regulation changes, visit: https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/northeast-zone.

Idaho’s spring chinook salmon fishing season also opens April 25, but early indications show the fish appear to be social distancing on their own. As of April 22, only 22 fish had crossed Lower Granite Dam, which is about 25 miles downstream of Lewiston, and the last dam the fish cross before reaching Idaho.

While numbers at Bonneville are a fraction of the 10-year average, they’re at least trending upward. The forecast is calling for a below-average run, and it could be later to arrive than expected, smaller, or both. But the run is expected to be better than last year.

IDFG will be keeping a watchful eye on the chinook run as it progresses and keeping people informed when the fish start arriving in significant numbers and anglers start catching them.

Anglers can learn more about the fishing season on the Chinook salmon seasons and rules webpage. Anglers are also reminded to abide by the Governor’s guidelines for safe recreation during COVID-19.

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