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Ecology and salmon related articles

Summer Chinook Season Closes

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, July 7(?), 2000

Just one day after the spring chinook fishing season closed on the Little Salmon and Clearwater rivers Tuesday, fishing for summer chinook on the South Fork of the Salmon River also closed.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game closed the season at the end of fishing hours Wednesday after a quota of wild chinook, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, had been caught and released. The fishery had just opened Friday and was scheduled to stay open until Aug. 4.

Though short, the season was unexpectedly productive for anglers. More than 100 fish per day were caught through Tuesday, a number that surprised Fish and Game biologists. They attributed the good fishing to a combination of low water flows and the peak of the run arriving early, just as the season opened.

"It was just a very conducive fishing situation and there was a lot of effort," said the department's anadromous fish manager Sharon Kiefer at Boise.

Through Tuesday anglers had caught 610 adult summer run chinook on the South Fork of the Salmon and 183 jacks, smaller male fish that return a year ahead of schedule. The department estimates 111 wild summer chinook were caught and released. Only hatchery-produced fish, identified by a missing fin on their backs, can be kept in any of Idaho's salmon seasons.

Fisheries biologists assume 10 percent of the wild fish caught and released eventually die from injuries and infections.

"It is conservative," said Kiefer. "We want to be conservative to protect the listed fish."

The 10 percent hooking mortality rate on spring and summer chinook is a number generally used throughout the Columbia River Basin, according to Kiefer. Summer chinook run a higher risk of mortality from wounds they incur because water temperatures are higher while they are in fresh water. Warmer water can make infections spread more quickly and generally tax fish more than cold water.

By comparison, biologists use a hooking mortality of just 6 percent on fall run steelhead.

The spring chinook fishing season on the Little Salmon, North Fork of the Clearwater and the Clearwater River closed at the end of fishing hours Tuesday. But salmon fishing remains open on the Lochsa and South Fork of the Clearwater rivers.

Biologists at the department continue to be pleased at the strength of the sockeye run, the most imperiled of Idaho's salmon. Through Tuesday, 94 sockeye had been counted at Lower Granite Dam, some 30 miles west of Clarkston. Historically, about 50 percent of the sockeye counted at the dam make it to Redfish, Atluras and Pettit lakes in the Stanley Basin.

Eric Barker
Summer Chinook Season Closes
Lewiston Tribune, July 7(?), 2000

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