Idaho Fish and Game plans to propose spring seasons on chinook salmon fishing to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in late March.
This year is not expected to be as good as last year, but the 2011 chinook salmon return is on track to be the sixth best year since 1980. The fish are still out in the Pacific Ocean, but the forecast for numbers of returning fish are similar to 2008 and 2009.
Northwest fish managers estimate that about 198,000 chinook bound for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam will enter the Columbia River this year - last year the number was 315,300.
Of those, 66,400 hatchery fish and 24,700 wild fish are predicted to head up the Snake River. Last year's actual return was 134,200 hatchery fish and 35,600 wild fish.
Based on those preseason forecasts, Idaho fish managers expect 37,840 hatchery fish and 19,760 wild fish to cross Lower Granite Dam. They estimate that about 20,500 fish will return to Idaho hatcheries in the Clearwater, lower Salmon and lower Snake drainages.
As fish pass federal dams on their way up the Columbia and Snake rivers, information from PIT tags -- passive integrated transponder -- allows fish managers to adjust preseason estimates.
Fish managers estimate that about 7,300 would return to hatcheries in the Clearwater drainage; 11,200 to hatcheries in the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers; and 2,000 to hatcheries in the Snake River below Hells Canyon dams.
That means an estimated 2,000 chinook would be available for nontribal recreational anglers in the Clearwater; 4,200 in the lower Salmon and Little Salmon; and about 800 in the Snake River below the Hells Canyon dams.
In years past, chinook seasons have opened in late April.