As you know, the upper Salmon River Chinook season opened last week on 6/22. The Chinook fishery is open from the Hwy 93 bridge south of Challis (~0.3 miles south of the intersection of Hwy 75 and Hwy 93), upstream to the posted boundary ~100 yards downstream of the weir and trap at the Sawtooth Hatchery. One change of note that anglers should recognize is the fishing hours. Traditionally the upper Salmon River Chinook fishing hours were 5:00 am to 10:00pm MDT – this has changed to 5:30 am to 10:00pm MDT. This change was made to have some consistency between Chinook fisheries across the state. Bag limits remain at four (4) adipose fin clipped salmon per day, only two (2) of which may be adults.
As expected, the river conditions were less than ideal for the opening weekend, with flows generally running about 2x the average high water we normally see this time of year. And, even with high off-color water, we still ran into a few hardy anglers out there giving it a shot, but we did not record any Chinook caught in our creel surveys.
LC 18 – Hwy 93 Bridge S of Challis to East Fork Salmon River
LC 19 – East Fork Salmon River to Sawtooth Hatchery
The Salmon River is still flowing much higher than normal (~5,100 cfs now vs. 2,590 average), but it appears to have peaked and is dropping. This should translate into improved river conditions as the Upper Salmon River Chinook fishery progresses. For this years’ fishery, I am watching the Salmon River below Yankee Fork near Clayton stream gauge: (https://waterdata.usgs.gov/id/nwis/uv/?site_no=13296500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00010)
In the upper Salmon Basin, we’ve had sustained, higher than average flows over the past 6+ weeks -(see graph below):
And here’s what those flows look like over the past week:
Other important gauges to watch are Valley Creek, Yankee Fork Salmon River, Thompson Creek, and Squaw Cr – these (along with other gauges across Idaho) can be found here:
Our current estimate of Sawtooth Hatchery Chinook over Bonneville Dam is 2,459 fish, with just over half of those fish (1,442) now over Lower Granite Dam. Survival (“conversion” between dams) of Sawtooth adult Chinook migrating through the lower Columbia has been decent. Conversion from Bonneville Dam to Lower Granite Dam so far has been ~65%, which is a bit lower than what we normally see (~83% historic average). Based on that, our harvest share is about 375 fish. The majority of the fish heading to the upper Salmon River are still moving through the system, and we have yet to see any PIT tag detections at the two upper Salmon River PIT tag arrays, located upstream of Salmon near Elevenmile and Iron Creek.
Good luck to all of you that get out on the water this weekend and over the 4th of July. River conditions should continue to improve, as should the number of fish entering the fishery. Fish on!
Report by Greg Schoby
Regional Fisheries Manager, Idaho Department of Fish and Game