Ecology and salmon related articles

Ocean and In-river Harvest

Idaho Fish & Game Report to the Director 5/1/98

Does harvest keep Idaho's salmon and steelhead from recovery?

Conclusion: Harvest has not caused the decline leading to listing of wild Snake River salmon and steelhead. Idaho spring-summer chinook undergo little fishing mortality in the ocean. Spring-summer chinook harvest rates are also low in tribal ceremonial and subsistence fisheries in the Columbia river basin; commercial harvest is closed. There is no known harvest of Snake River sockeye. Incidental wild salmon and steelhead mortalities in sport fisheries for marked hatchery fish have been estimated to be minimal, and are closely monitored to ensure they do not constrain recovery efforts.

Some Idaho runs are harvested at rates inconsistent with ESA protection. Spawning escapements of large Group B wild steelhead, which return to Idaho, are perilously low. In addition to poor mainstem migration condition, wild B steelhead escapements are further reduced by harvest rates of 30 percent in Columbia River fisheries for fall chinook and steelhead. Harvest rates in the ocean and Columbia river also reduce spawning escapements of threatened Snake River fall chinook.


The ocean harvest of Snake River fall chinook has been estimated at 35 to 40 percent of the stock in recent years (NMFS 1996a). By comparison, releases of several million coded-wire tagged spring-summer chinook from Idaho hatcheries between 1976 and 1987 resulted in only 32 recoveries in the ocean. While this is partially due to dramatic reductions in survival of these fish, Idaho spring chinook in particular seem to spend most of their time offshore of major fisheries. Sockeye and steelhead also are distributed offshore and not targeted by ocean fisheries. Summer steelhead show up in local fisheries as they return to the Columbia River along the Pacific coast, however the numbers are insignificant. The Japanese high seas drift net was eliminated by international treaty in 1992. Drift net fisheries on the high seas formerly took less than three percent of the Pacific Northwest steelhead stock (NMFS 1996b).


Treaty rights held by the Columbia River tribes account for most of the limited harvest of salmon and steelhead that still occurs in the mainstem Columbia river. All mainstem harvest and incidental mortality of spring-summer chinook has averaged seven percent of the run since 1978. Harvest losses have totaled 4.5 percent of the Columbia River sockeye run since 1989 (TAC 1997a). The chance of Idaho sockeye entering the harvest is considered remote because estimated numbers at the mouth of the Columbia River have averaged only five fish since 1989. Snake River fall chinook have been harvested at 25 to 30 percent in recent years (TAC 1998); this fishery, combined with ocean harvest, limits spawning escapements. Approximately 30 percent of the wild B steelhead run has been harvested in the Zone 6 tribal fishery in the fall. This also reduces escapement to the spawning grounds (TAC 1997b). Sport harvest of wild steelhead has been prohibited in the Columbia River since 1986. Incidental mortality estimates are not available for most sport fisheries, but probably are similar to Idaho estimates of two percent at the population level (IDFG 1997).


Tribal fisheries in Idaho have harvested relatively few fish in recent years (TAC 1997c). Sport fisheries for marked hatchery spring-summer chinook occur infrequently and are closely regulated based on catch-and-release estimates for wild fish. Incidental mortality of wild steelhead in hatchery fisheries is estimated to have been 1.6 to 3.6 percent from 1990 to 1996 (IDFG 1997). No harvest or incidental mortality of sockeye salmon is known to have occurred in Idaho since sockeye fishing was closed in 1965.

Salmon and steelhead rearing areas statewide are managed with special regulations to minimize or eliminate sport harvest of juvenile anadromous fish.

Their Status and Recovery Options - Issue Paper: Ocean and In-river Harvest
Report to the Director Idaho Fish & Game 5/1/98

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