Here’s an update from Greg Schoby with Idaho Fish & Game:
My apologies for not getting an update out sooner. I’ve spoken to many of you on the phone or by individual email, but thought I’d try to get some more info out there regarding salmon seasons.
Unfortunately, we are not in a position to propose any salmon fisheries for the upper Salmon River this season. As most of you know, generally we make proposals for the upper Salmon to the IDFG Commission during their annual mid-May commission meeting. This season (similar to the past few) the runs have been late and we didn’t know if the run was just late or small…unfortunately it turned out to be a little of both. As most of you have probably noticed, returns across the Snake and Columbia River basin have been pretty rough this year, as evidenced by the short fisheries and subsequent closures we’ve already encountered in our fisheries in the Clearwater and Lower Salmon rivers.
Our forecasted return for fish to the two upper Salmon River hatcheries was pretty poor to start with. We make pre-season estimates of returns of Idaho bound fish at both Bonneville Dam (the first dam they encounter on the Columbia River) and at Lower Granite Dam (the last dam they cross on the Snake River before returning to Idaho) – the return of Pahsimeroi hatchery fish was forecasted to be 589 fish at Bonneville Dam, which is well below our broodstock need (664 – the number of fish to fill the hatchery with eggs for the future). At Sawtooth, the forecast was a bit better, at 1,201, but just above our broodstock need (939). And remember, those numbers are the forecast at Bonneville Dam – when we apply our historic conversion rates (survival between dams), we had a forecast of 893 Sawtooth and 363 Pahsimeroi fish at Lower Granite Dam.
As the run has progressed, we’ve seen the Sawtooth return stumble (current estimate at Bonneville = 669, with the majority of the run already done – we’ve only seen 1 PIT tagged Sawtooth fish cross Bonneville in the last week). Meanwhile the Pahsimeroi run has come in a bit better than forecasted (current Bonneville estimate = 744), with likely some more fish to come. We are estimating that the Pahsimeroi run will come in around 1,000 fish at Bonneville.
As things currently sit, we will likely not meet our broodstock needed at Sawtooth, and if we see conversion (survival between dams) near the average rate, we should trap enough broodstock at Pahsimeroi.
Some of you may have heard, the IDFG commission is meeting on Thursday to hear a proposal for opening a Chinook fishery on the South Fork Salmon River. Please visit the IDFG website or call the Salmon Hotline (855-287-2702) to check on updates to the South Fork Salmon River fishery.
Sorry I don’t have better news, but I hope this helps shed some light on the situation. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.