- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho officials have approved a coho salmon fishing season on the Clearwater River following efforts by the Nez Perce Tribe to bring salmon back after they disappeared about 30 years ago.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday approved the sport fishing season that starts Friday and runs through Nov. 16.

“Without the Nez Perce tribe’s efforts, Idaho sport anglers would not be getting this opportunity,” Pete Hassemer, anadromous fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said in a statement.

Anglers will be allowed to keep two coho salmon per day and up to 10 for the monthlong season on portions of the Clearwater and Middle Fork of the Clearwater in northern Idaho.

Coho salmon disappeared by 1985 from the Clearwater River. The Nez Perce Tribe in 1995 began efforts to restore salmon using eggs and young salmon from other locations.

The first coho, eight fish, returned in 1997, with runs continuing to grow over the years. As of Tuesday, nearly 15,000 coho salmon had passed Lower Granite Dam.

“The tribe feels the success of the program speaks for itself, and after over a 40- to 50-year void, is happy to see people be able to catch cuhlii (or coho salmon) in the Clearwater River,” said Silas C. Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. “The returning coho are being harvested and spawning, and part of our cultural connection to these fish has been re-established.”

None of the coho salmon have their adipose fins clipped, which is the fin on the top of the fish between the dorsal fin and the tail. Fishery managers often clip the adipose fin to mark a fish as originating in a hatchery rather than being a wild fish. Wild fish in many river systems typically must be released unharmed.

Because the hatchery-origin coho salmon have intact adipose fins, fisheries managers are allowing fish with adipose fins to be killed. However, anglers are being told to be able to positively identify fish to make sure they aren’t killing wild steelhead or fall chinook.

State officials plan to publish fish identification tips and post more information at boat ramps.

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