The upper Salmon River Chinook season opened this past weekend on 6/18. We observed a moderate amount of fishing pressure, with some fish caught, but overall the catch rates were low. The majority of the fish heading to the upper Salmon River as still moving through the system, and catch rates should improve as the season progresses. The upper Salmon River Chinook fishery is dependent on returns of hatchery Chinook to the two hatcheries in the area: Pahsimeroi hatchery located near Ellis, and Sawtooth hatchery near Stanley:
The Pahsimeroi return is a bit of a head-scratcher this year – the run was forecast at ~1,800 fish return, but for some reason, PIT tags are grossly underestimating the Pahsimeroi return – we just aren’t seeing PIT tagged Pahsimeroi fish at the dams this year. The current PIT tag estimate is showing 167 Pahsimeroi adults over Lower Granite – but the hatchery dropped their trap last week and through yesterday have already trapped 107 adults. Based on historic run timing of fish returning to the Pahsimeroi, seeing this many fish this early would indicate a run of several thousand fish. So obviously there are some big differences in the predicted number of fish returning to the Pahsimeroi when comparing PIT tag estimates vs. what is showing up at the trap. Given those large differences, we are working to figure out a more accurate estimate of the Pahsimeroi return, which involves running genetic samples from all the fish handled at Lower Granite Dam to determine which hatchery they came from. I’m hopeful that this will give us a more realistic estimate of the actual run, and we expect to have the genetic analysis done early next week. Results of the genetic work could give us the flexibility to provide additional angling opportunity.
The Sawtooth return is looking very good with nearly 4,800 fish over Bonneville Dam, and nearly 2,800 of those are over Lower Granite Dam. Based on that, our harvest share should at least be around 850 fish. I would guess that the harvest share will come in a bit higher than that (~1,200 – 1,300), but that will depend on the survival (“conversion”) of the remaining fish currently between Bonneville and Lower Granite. Conversion on the earlier fish was good (~85%) but starting 6/15 several fisheries have opened in the Columbia River which will likely reduce the conversion rate of those remaining ~2,000 fish. We’ll know how this will affect harvest share over the next couple of weeks, but the good news is that it can bump up higher.
As of 6/21/16, 57 adult hatchery Chinook have been trapped at Sawtooth hatchery.
Angler Catch/Harvest (from weekend 1 [6/18-6/19])
Lower River (Copper Mine to North Fork, North Fork to Lemhi, Lemhi to Pahsimeroi): Catch was very low during the opening weekend, but a few fish were caught near the Pahsimeroi (@Ellis, Deer Gulch), with 3 fish harvested this past weekend, and 3 wild fish caught and released.
Upper River (Pahsimeroi to East Fork, East Fork to Sawtooth hatchery): Anglers harvested 64 fish (47 adults, 17 jacks) in the upper river (between East Fork and Sawtooth hatchery). Anglers also caught and released 45 Chinook in these upper river sections, 35 of which were wild fish. See below for the detailed break-down of catch, harvest, effort, and hours per fish.
*Location Code key (from downstream to upstream):
LC 15 – Copper mine boat ramp to North Fork Salmon River
LC 16 – North Fork Salmon River to Lemhi River
LC 17 – Lemhi River to Pahsimeroi River
LC 18 – Pahsimeroi River to East Fork Salmon River
LC 19 – East Fork Salmon River to Sawtooth Hatchery
The Salmon River had good visibility throughout the weekend, and river flows were low. As of today, the Salmon River is flowing at 2,710 cfs through the town of Salmon, ID which is 53% of average for today’s date. The Salmon River downstream of the Yankee Fork in location code 19 is flowing at 1,580 cfs, which is 60% of average. Mid-morning water temperatures downstream of Salmon were in the upper 50’s, and water temperatures near Stanley were in the low 50’s.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, and good luck out there!
Regional Fisheries Manager
Idaho Department of Fish and Game