Upper Salmon River Chinook update 6.21.23
By angelamontana

Posted: June 21, 2023

Fishery opens tomorrow, Chinook heading towards the upper river

With the upper Salmon River Chinook fishery opening tomorrow (6/22/23), many of you have asked if the fish are here yet, and when you should travel to the upper Salmon to chase Chinook. Below is some info to help plan your trip.


The upper Salmon River fishery will be open 7 days a week, beginning on June 22nd, and will remain open until harvest share is reached, wild fish impacts are reached, or until August 10th, whichever comes first. The fishery is open from the Hwy 75 bridge upstream of the East Fork Salmon River upstream to the posted boundary approximately 100 yards downstream of the weir and trap at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery. Fishing hours are from 5:30am to 10:00 pm MDT. The daily limit is four (4) hatchery Chinook salmon, only two (2) of which may be adults (over 24 inches). For the full season rules, please click here.


Since the last update, we’ve only seen a couple more Sawtooth hatchery PIT tagged Chinook Salmon cross over Bonneville Dam. With the run essentially over at Bonneville Dam, this puts the current estimate at nearly 3,600 adults, which is pretty close to the pre-season forecast (see table below).

June22_USR_Bonneville table

As mentioned last week, survival from Bonneville Dam to Lower Granite Dam has been better than average (currently ~86% vs. 70% over the past 5 years). An estimated 2,939 (~82%) of the upper Salmon River Chinook that are over Bonneville Dam have also made it over Lower Granite Dam. This puts the harvest share for the upper Salmon River fishery around 950 fish (see table below).

June22_USR_LGD table


The number one question people ask around the opening day of the Chinook season is, “are the fish there yet??” We detected the first three PIT tagged fish returning to the upper Salmon River at the Elevenmile PIT array (~11 miles upstream of Salmon) on 6/15 and 6/16. Two of those were wild Chinook and the other a Sawtooth Hatchery fish. Since then, we’ve detected 8 additional PIT tagged Chinook at the Elevenmile array, including two fish this am (6/21), one of which was another Sawtooth fish. The two hatchery Chinook observed at the PIT array were also some of the earliest arrivers at Bonneville Dam, being encountered on 5/9 and 5/14. Travel time is a little slower than normal, likely as fish were held up at the Slide Rapid in the lower Salmon River. But we’re starting to see the front end of the run, and they will most likely start to show up in relatively large groups.


Currently the upper Salmon River is flowing at about 2200 cfs (measured at the gauge below the Yankee Fork) which is a little lower than average, and we should continue to see flows slowly come down. River clarity in the Stanley area looked great as I passed through on Tuesday.


Trapping operations have not started at Sawtooth yet – they plan to have the weir in place by the end of the week or early next week, depending on flows. Keep on eye on the Hatchery Returns webpage for more information about trapping totals – it will get updated as soon as the trap is installed and operational.

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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