Upper Salmon River Chinook fishing update by IDFG 5.22.23
By angelamontana

Posted: May 23, 2023

Hi all,

Many of you have been anxiously awaiting some news on the upper Salmon River Chinook run and the potential for fisheries we may be able to offer in the summer of 2023. Well I’m happy to share some relatively good news…

I’ll focus on the return of adult hatchery Chinook to Sawtooth hatchery in this update, as it’s still a bit early to have much info regarding the Pahsimeroi return, as we’re just starting to see the first few PIT tagged adults crossing over Bonneville Dam. In the pre-season update I posted in February, I touched on the migration timing of these stocks, as well as the forecasted return to each hatchery. The Pahsimeroi pre-season forecast was to just barely meet the broodstock need, so it’s most likely that we won’t see any fishing on the Pahsimeroi stock this year. But I’ll keep you posted on the Pahsimeroi return as the run progresses.

For the Sawtooth return, the pre-season forecast suggested we’d have a small surplus above and beyond the broodstock need for harvest share. As of today’s date (5/22), we should be just past 50% of the run at Bonneville Dam (based on historic timing) and it looks like the run is coming in larger than forecast. This is great news as we were originally thinking there would be only a few hundred fish for harvest share, and it’s now looking like our harvest share will be somewhere between 500 and 1,000. The graph below shows the daily counts of Sawtooth hatchery adult Chinook (including some Yankee Salmon River hatchery releases) over Bonneville Dam from 2023 (red line), 2022 (gray line), and the 5 year average (dashed line).

In Joe DuPont’s update last week, he mentioned the mixing of the Rapid River and Sawtooth Hatchery stocks and fish passage at the Slide Rapid – both of which can influence fish returning to the upper Salmon River. The Rapid River and Sawtooth hatchery stocks are mixed more than normal this year, due to the late run timing of the Rapid River fish. Joe referenced how that may affect the fishing opportunities in the lower Salmon River. The graph below shows the timing of the two stocks over Bonneville Dam.

Joe ended his update by noting that flows are high (at the time 60,000 cfs) and that many fish will get held up below the Slide Rapid in the lower Salmon River. Flows at White Bird are now over 75,000 cfs and will likely remain high for a while, as snow in the high elevations of the upper Salmon River continues to melt. We know the longer those flows block fish passage at the Slide, the more those stocks will “stack up” and mix together. We’ll continue to update you on how this may affect our fisheries.

I’ll post another update next week, which should tell us a lot more about the Sawtooth run. What happens over the coming week or two will help us determine the harvest share for that potential fishery and start drafting season proposals. And of course I’ll keep you posted on what we are seeing out the Pahsimeroi run as we encounter more PIT tags from that return.

If you have questions, comments, or would like to be added to my email update list, please reach out to me at: greg.schoby@idfg.idaho.gov or at the Salmon Regional Office at (208) 756-2271.

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