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Once extinct, Idaho coho are back and season opening
October 8, 2017
The Idaho Fish and Game commissioners on October 2 set a fishing season for coho salmon, which will run October 17 through November 16, or until further notice.

Fishing will be open on sections of the Clearwater, South Fork of the Clearwater and North Fork of the Clearwater. Fishing for coho salmon is permitted daily and 24-hours a day during the designated season and locations.

Bag limits will be two coho daily, six in possession and 10 during the 2017 season. Coho season limit is in addition to the chinook season limit. Coho Salmon with an attached adipose fin can be harvested. Anglers must have a valid salmon permit to keep coho.

Anglers should beware that steelhead and fall chinook fishing seasons occur in the same waters, and they must have a clipped adipose fin to be kept. Know the difference between these species.

Coho were reintroduced into the Clearwater River system by the Nez Perce Tribe, and Idaho held its first coho sport fishing season in 2014.

This year’s return is enough to replenish hatcheries and provide a modest sport fishing harvest. Through October 4, 2,874 coho adults and 140 coho jacks had crossed Lower Granite Dam about 30 miles downstream from Lewiston. Last year on the same date, 1,252 adults and 162 jacks had passed. The 10-year average is 1,978 adults and 187 jacks.

Coho were declared functionally extinct in 1985 after counts at Lower Granite flat-lined at zero in the 1980s. Annual adult coho counts at Lower Granite from 1984-1996 registered zero 10 times with a total of 11 tallied combined in the three other years.

Coho salmon once returned to the Clearwater River Basin (tributary to the Snake River) in abundance and supported an important fall tribal fishery.

Earlier efforts to restore coho during the 1960s failed. Snake River coho were never listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The Nez Perce Tribe’s reintroduction program began in 1995 with hatchery coho releases into the Clearwater River.
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