Upper Salmon River Chinook Salmon Season Update: 6/22/2022
By angelamontana

Posted: June 23, 2022
Hi everybody, here’s the weekly upper Salmon River Chinook update:

The 2022 Upper Salmon River Chinook Salmon fishery opened up this past Saturday, June 18th. The fishery is now open from 100 yards upstream of the North Fork Salmon River confluence to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream of the Sawtooth Hatchery weir and trap. The daily bag limits are four (4) adipose fin clipped salmon per day, of which only two (2) may be adults. The possession limit is twelve (12) adipose fin clipped salmon, of which only six (6) may be adults, and the statewide possession limit is twenty (20) adult Chinook Salmon. Please visit the Chinook Salmon Seasons and Rules webpage for more details.

Angler effort during the opening weekend was very low. We estimated that anglers spent a total of 86 hours fishing over the two days, and no interviewed anglers reported catching a salmon. Below is the breakdown of angler effort by river section in the upper Salmon River fishery – we will continue to use this table in future reports as angler effort (and catch) increases.

 

Upper Salmon River – preliminary harvest estimates: June 18 – 19, 2022
River Section Clipped Adults Clipped Jacks Total Angler Hours Hours per fish kept Unclipped Salmon Released
North Fork Salmon River to Lemhi River (location code 16) 0 0 0 17 0 0
Lemhi River to Pahsimeroi River (location code 17) 0 0 0 16 0 0
Pahsimeroi River to East Fork Salmon River (location code 18) 0 0 0 20 0 0
East Fork Salmon River to 100 yards downstream of Sawtooth weir (location code 19) 0 0 0 33 0 0
Weekly Totals 0 0 0 86 0 0
Season Totals 0 0 0 86 0 0

 

salmon-river-06-22-22-east-fork-salmon

Idaho Fish and Game Salmon River above the East Fork Salmon River (6/22/2022)

River conditions were poor downstream of the East Fork Salmon River with above average flows and visibility less than one foot. Upstream of the East Fork, the river’s visibility was better at around 3 feet, but flows were also well above average. Water temperatures ranged from the low 50’s near Stanley to the upper 50’s near North Fork. River conditions have steadily improved over the past couple of days as flows have declined, but downstream of the East Fork Salmon is still a bit off color (see pics below). To obtain real-time flow and temperature data, anglers can visit the USGS WaterWatch website. The two main stem Salmon River flow gauges within the fishery boundary are 13302500  – Salmon River at Salmon and 13296500 – Salmon River below the Yankee Fork near Clayton. The only station on the upper Salmon River that shows temperature data is 13307000 (Salmon River near Shoup, ID).

salmon-river-06-22-22-pahsimeroi-salmon

Salmon River looking downstream at the confluence with the Pahsimeroi River (6/22/2022)

Idaho Fish and Game

Run Update (timing, survival, and harvest shares):

Sawtooth Hatchery

The current estimate of adult hatchery Chinook heading to Sawtooth hatchery that are over Bonneville Dam is 2,585 fish, and of those, 1,783 are estimated over Lower Granite Dam. This run is more or less done coming over Bonneville Dam – we did have another PIT tagged Sawtooth adult cross Bonneville yesterday, but prior to that we went 11 days without any of those fish crossing.

Sawtooth fish are continuing to survive through the Columbia and Snake River systems at a bit higher rate than average, with survival between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam currently at 77% compared to an average of 66%. The survival of those last few PIT tagged Sawtooth fish from Bonneville to Granite will help determine our final harvest share, which right now is looking like it will fall somewhere between 500 and 600 fish.

Pahsimeroi Hatchery

The current estimate of adult hatchery Chinook bound for Pahsimeroi hatchery that are over Bonneville Dam is 2,164 fish, and of those, only about 877 are over Lower Granite Dam so far. Based on average run timing, about 90% of this run is over Bonneville Dam. We’ve gone 4 days now without any Pahsimeroi fish over Bonneville, and while we may see a couple more, it probably won’t be a lot, but it will help add to our harvest share if we detect more. It’s not totally unexpected that a smaller portion of the Pahsimeroi run has made it from Bonneville to Granite as of yet. Due to their later arrival than Sawtooth fish, combined with the amount of water in the Columbia River system over the past couple of weeks, we’re seeing some delays in fish movement throughout the system.

Survival of Pahsimeroi fish through the Columbia and Snake River systems is a bit lower than average, with survival between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam currently at 65% compared to an average of 73%. While this isn’t a huge difference, it may be related to the delays we’ve seen so it’s something we’ll keep eyes on. As with the Sawtooth run, the survival of those last few PIT tagged fish from Bonneville to Granite will help determine our final harvest share. But it’s looking very similar to Sawtooth, with a harvest share likely in the 500-600 fish range.

The question I’ve been getting lately is “are there fish at Ellis or fish near Stanley yet?” We have two PIT arrays in the upper Salmon River, between Salmon and Ellis that helps us track movement and timing throughout the fishery. Those arrays are near the Elevenmile boat ramp (~11 miles upstream of Salmon) and at Iron Creek, near Elk Bend, ID. We have detected 5 wild PIT tagged Chinook at the Elevenmile array over the past 5 days, but no PIT tags have been detected from either Pahsimeroi or Sawtooth hatchery groups. Those wild fish encountered at the Elevenmile array were tagged at Lower Granite Dam between May 10th and May 16th, and travel time from Granite to the Elevenmile array averaged 38.2 days. The earliest 3 tagged Sawtooth fish detected at Granite were right in the same time range (5/10 – 5/17), so I would expect we’ll detect some of the earlier Sawtooth tags at the Elevenmile array any day now.  It’s likely that once we start to see fish showing in the upper Salmon, we may see them in large groups. As Joe DuPont (Clearwater Regional Fisheries Manager) noted in his recent update, the Slide rapid was likely blocking or at least delaying fish passage when we had high flows. This is evident in the travel time we’re seeing from Lower Granite Dam to the Elevenmile array. As noted above, it took the first few PIT tagged wild fish 38 days to make it from Granite to Elevenmile – in previous years, that travel time averages about 21 days, so fish have definitely been held up a bit. Flows across the basin are dropping, and the lower Salmon at Whitebird just dropped below 40,000 cfs yesterday and is now under 36,000 cfs, so we should see more fish moving our way soon.

Jordan Messner (Regional Fisheries Manager in our McCall office) put together a great tutorial on how to look up PIT tag detection data. In his video he is specifically looking up South Fork Salmon detections at the Krassel array, but you can do the same by looking up the two arrays in the upper Salmon River. Those are “USE – Upper Salmon River at rkm 437” and “USI – Upper Salmon River at rkm 460”. Here’s a link to his tutorial video and to the PTagis.org website.

Hatchery Returns

Trapping operations have started at both the Sawtooth and Pahsimeroi hatcheries, and not surprisingly, as of Tuesday June 21st, no salmon have been trapped at either location. For more information concerning hatchery returns, please visit the Hatchery Returns webpage.

Thanks everyone, and best of luck if you get out this weekend!

Feature photo credit: Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game | Chinook