Greg Schoby with Idaho Fish & Game sent us the following report:
Many of you have likely heard the news about the Chinook fishery closure order (https://idfg.idaho.gov/press/chinook-seasons-close-lower-salmon-and-section-upper-salmon) that was signed yesterday afternoon.
This applies to the Lower Salmon River and a portion of the fishery in the Upper Salmon River. The Lower Salmon River fishery from Time Zone Bridge to Short’s Creek will close to fishing at the end of fishing hours this Sunday July 2nd.
Also closing Sunday (July 2nd) evening at the end of fishing hours will be the upper Salmon River Chinook fishery from the Challis area (Hwy 93 bridge S of the junction of Hwy 75 and Hwy 93) upstream to Valley Creek. The Chinook fishery in the upper Salmon River above Valley Creek to Sawtooth Hatchery will remain open.
I have already received many questions as to why a large portion of the upper Salmon River fishery has closed when we have yet to catch any fish. During this years’ fishery proposal and season setting process, we have been keeping a close eye on the number of wild fish returning to the upper Salmon River basin. Wild fish numbers were forecasted to be low, but still robust enough to allow us fishing opportunity. As the Chinook run progressed, wild fish numbers came in under forecast and our current estimate is below the threshold necessary to allow us to have a fishery downstream of Valley Creek. By fishing below Valley Creek, we can potentially impact multiple wild stocks of Chinook, including those that spawn in the East Fork Salmon River, the Yankee Fork Salmon River, Valley Creek, and the main stem upper Salmon River. Our current forecast of wild fish returning to those areas is below 1,000 fish and we are not willing to risk impacting those populations.
By limiting our fishery to the area upstream of Valley Creek, we have the best chance of catching and harvesting hatchery fish (i.e. maximizing our harvest share) while reducing the catch and release impacts on wild stocks.
I hope this helps explain a little of the process of the management of the upper Salmon Chinook fishery, and as always feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend, and good luck to those of you that get out on the water!
(feature photo via Dave Bickford)