The state Department of Fish and Game closed the hatchery spring chinook fishing season on the main Clearwater, its North Fork and Little Salmon rivers July 4. The tribe's fish committee requested the closing. The Nez Perce want to ensure sufficient surplus fish in the Clearwater remain to be planted out in the basin's headwaters. "They have exceeded their quota and we did ask them to close the fishery because of that,'' tribal production manager Dave Johnson said of Fish and Game. Tribal fishing will continue because they have not yet caught their half of the quota. The state was not asked to close the season on the Little Salmon River, but department biologists decided to anyway. The tribe wants to use the remaining surplus of hatchery adults in tributaries of the Selway and Lochsa, where it is hoped they will spawn and add to native chinook populations. "We want to see those surplus fish utilized,'' said Johnson. A record return of jack chinook - males that return to their home waters after spending just one year in the ocean - indicates next year's run should be even bigger.
The tribe, whose ancestors helped the struggling explorers of the Lewis and Clark expedition, want to be sure their heritage is addressed in celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the 28-month journey. Members say they need to ensure that the tribe benefits economically, that their side of the story is told and that sensitive cultural sites are protected. The tribe is working on a travel package and the committee will publish a small book of etiquette for non-Indian visitors. The tribal also is interested in a Nez Perce cultural center or exhibits that feature tribal heritage. The bicentennial celebration will begin in January 2003, marking the anniversary of the expedition's departure from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home. It ends in 2006.