Boating or Floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon?
Redd alert! All float-boat parties urged to steer around Chinook salmon redds
All boaters on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River need to steer clear of Chinook salmon spawning nests, known as redds, according to a press release from the Middle Fork Outfitters Association. The Middle Fork of the Salmon is a 100-mile-long "national wild and scenic river" in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
The Chinook spawning season on the main-stem Middle Fork will last until Sept. 15. It is a month in duration; it began on Aug. 15. The Middle Fork Ranger District will mark key salmon spawning areas so boaters know which areas to avoid.
The MFOA has volunteers working at the Boundary Creek and Indian Creek launch sites to inform and educate outfitted and private float groups about the importance of steering around the spawning grounds as they float the river and they printed "do not disturb Chinook salmon spawning" waterproof boat tags to hand out to Middle Fork boat captains.
"We are trying to assist the Forest Service to make sure that all Middle Fork float parties are aware that they need to up their game to avoid the redds," said Grant Simonds, government liaison for MFOA.
The Middle Fork supports a population of wild spring/summer Chinook salmon, listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. The number of salmon returning to the Middle Fork has been decreasing since four federal dams were built on the Lower Snake River in the 1960s and 1970s.
"The Middle Fork is in pristine condition, so the reason for the decline is totally a consequence of downriver impacts caused by the dams and reservoirs," said Tom Stuart, a Stanley-based board member of Idaho Rivers United, a statewide conservation group. "The salmon are in trouble. The importance of the wild fish on the Middle Fork cannot be overstated."
Last year, salmon dug just 11 redds on the main-stem Middle Fork. The number of redds varies from year to year. Before the Lower Snake dams were built, Idaho Fish and Game counted 425 redds on the Middle Fork in 1951.
By informing and educating float-boat parties about the importance of preserving Chinook salmon on the Middle Fork, outfitters want to show that boaters can co-exist with the fish during spawning season and ensure that outfitted and private trips can continue during a critical period for the rural economy. "Small rural economies like Stanley and Salmon can't afford to see the Aug. 15 to Sept. 15 season go away," Simonds said.
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