Friday, April 18, 2008

First salmon season in 31 years?

Fish and Game to consider upper Salmon chinook fishing

Express Staff Writer

An angler fishes for steelhead below the weir at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery on the Salmon River. Next month, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider a limited season for Chinook salmon on the same waters on the upper Salmon. The last time anglers could fish for Chinook in the Sawtooth Valley was in 1977. Photo by Mountain Express

Salmon anglers rejoice: Strong runs of chinook have prompted the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to consider the first chinook salmon fishing season on the upper Salmon River near Stanley in 31 years.

The commission is expected to consider the season on the upper Salmon and another on the South Fork of the Salmon River east of McCall in May, a Fish and Game news release states. The last time anglers could fish for chinook in the Sawtooth Valley was in 1977.

Local fly-fishing guide Zac Mayhew of Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum said a chinook season on the upper Salmon would be a boost for local tourist-related business.

"It would be a plus for all of us," he said.

Mayhew said he would consider heading to Stanley to fish for chinook if river conditions were low enough to allow fly-fishing.

Snake and Salmon river Chinook salmon populations were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1994, and populations are at a fraction of their historic vigor.

In a vote in Boise on Wednesday, the Fish and Game Commission set the opening day for chinook fishing elsewhere in the state as Saturday, April 26. The season will open half an hour before sunrise on April 26 on portions of the Snake, Clearwater, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers. The chinook season on the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho will open May 24.

Additional information on the sections of those rivers that are open to chinook fishing can be found in Fish and Game's 2008-2009 Fishing Seasons and Rules brochure, or at the agency's Web site at

According to the latest chinook counts from the Bonneville Dam reported yesterday, April 17, by Fish and Game, a total of 8,594 spring chinook salmon have passed over the lower Columbia River dam so far this year. The dam is the first of four major dams anadromous fish bound for Idaho must pass before they reach the mouth of the Snake River where four more dams await.

The figure compares to just 4,322 spring chinook that had passed the Bonneville Dam by the same date last year.

Numbers of chinook are also counted at the Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River. The dam is the last barrier anadromous fish must pass before entering Idaho.

According to Fish and Game, very few chinook salmon have crossed Lower Granite Dam so far this year. By Thursday, only nine chinook had crossed the dam, compared to three the same date last year.

While the numbers of spring chinook crossing the Bonneville Dam peak around the middle of April, the peak at the Lower Granite Dam typically takes place around June 1, information provided on the Fish and Game's Web site indicates.

The commissioners set limits in the Clearwater River drainage, which includes the Lochsa, at two fish per day, with no more than six in possession. On the Snake, Lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers the limits will be three fish per day, with no more than nine in possession. The statewide limit for adult chinook is 40 fish for the entire season.

Anglers may only keep hatchery chinook salmon, which have a clipped adipose fin, indicated by a healed scar. Chinook salmon with an intact adipose fin are considered wild fish and must be released by anglers immediately. Any salmon caught must be released or killed immediately after landing.

The rules have changed for jack chinook salmon this year. Jack salmon are young male salmon that return to spawn in their river of origin after spending only one year in salt water.

Fish and Game considers jack salmon as any Chinook less than 24 inches long. Anglers may keep up to two adipose-fin-clipped jacks per day and may have six in possession in addition to the adult chinook daily and total possession limits. Fish and Game doesn't require anglers to record jacks on their permit.

When the adult possession limit is reached, the angler must stop all fishing for salmon, including catch and release and for jacks.

Anglers must have a valid fishing license and salmon permit in possession to fish for salmon, except on Free Fishing Day, which is set for June 7. Nonresidents 14 years and older must buy a nonresident fishing license and salmon permit, a nonresident junior fishing license and salmon permit, or a three-day salmon license.

Consult Fish and Game's 2008-2009 Fishing Seasons and Rules brochure for additional rules, license costs and other salmon fishing information.

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