Sections of the Snake River Will Open This Month for Spring Chinook Fishing in Washington



Four sections of the Snake River in southeast Washington will open to fishing for spring chinook salmon this month, starting April 20 with the stretch below Ice Harbor Dam.

Three other sections of the river, near Little Goose Dam, Lower Granite Dam and Clarkston, will open April 25.

The daily catch limit for most of the open areas is two hatchery-reared adult chinook – marked with a clipped adipose fin – and four hatchery jacks measuring less than 24 inches.

The exception is the area along the south shoreline of the Little Goose Dam (including “the wall”) upstream to the juvenile-bypass return pipe, where anglers may retain only one adult chinook salmon and one hatchery jack per day.

In all areas, anglers are required to use barbless hooks, and must stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult chinook salmon. All chinook with the adipose fin intact, and all steelhead, must immediately be released unharmed.

John Whalen, eastern regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the fishery below Ice Harbor Dam is tentatively scheduled to remain open through May 24 – and through May 31 in the other areas – but may close earlier if impacts on wild stocks reach federal limits.

“Our ability to closely monitor this fishery, as required by federal permit, is due in large part to funds from the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement,” Whalen said. “Without the monitoring, we wouldn’t be able to open this fishery.”

The endorsement, required of all anglers fishing for salmon or steelhead in the Columbia River system (which includes the Snake River), costs $8.25; seniors and youth pay $6.60.

A total of 168,000 spring chinook salmon are expected to return to the Snake River Basin this year, including 129,000 hatchery fish. Last year’s forecast anticipated a return of 194,000 spring chinook, but only 66,000 hatchery fish.

The section of the Snake River scheduled to open April 20 below Ice Harbor Dam extends from the Highway 12 bridge at Pasco upstream about seven miles to about 400 feet below the dam.

The three sections of the river scheduled to open April 25 are:

  • Near Little Goose Dam: From the railroad bridge approximately a half-mile downstream from the mouth of the Tucannon River, upriver to the fishing restriction boundary below Little Goose Dam, and from Little Goose Dam to the Corps of Engineers boat launch approximately one mile upstream of Little Goose Dam. This zone includes the area between the juvenile bypass return pipe and Little Goose Dam along the south shoreline of the facility and the walkway area locally known as “the Wall” in front of the juvenile collection facility.
  • Below Lower Granite Dam:  From Casey Creek Canyon Road in Garfield County (located about six miles downstream of Lower Granite Dam) to about 400 feet below Lower Granite Dam.
  • Near Clarkston:  From the intersection of Steptoe Canyon Road with Highway 193 in Whitman County, upriver about 12 miles to the Idaho state line (identified as a line from the north end of the rock levee on the east side of the Greenbelt boat launch near the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office), northwest across the Snake River to the Idaho/Washington marker on the north shore.

Whalen strongly encourages anglers to review regulations specific to each area, posted on WDFW’s website at General fishing regulations for the Snake River effective through April 30 are available in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet ( The new sport fishing rules pamphlet for 2012-13 will be available in stores and online May 1.

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