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More Salmon Fishing Available

by Roger Phillips
The Idaho Statesman, June 7, 2002

South Fork of Salmon River to open June 19

Salmon anglers can fish the South Fork of the Salmon River starting June 19, but they won´t get an extended season on the Main Salmon.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Thursday unanimously approved opening the South Fork.

“It´s exciting we continue to have salmon fishing opportunities in Idaho, and we are all excited about this,” said commission Chairman Marcus Gibbs of Grace.

The season is tentatively scheduled to last until Aug. 4, but if recent history is any indication, it won´t last that long.

Last year, the season opened June 10 and ran through July 2. The previous year, the season lasted three days.

“Our hope is we will make it through the Fourth of July this year,” F&G state fisheries chief Virgil Moore said.

F&G and the National Marine Fisheries Service will set a quota once the salmon start arriving and they get a good indication of the run size.

F&G´s preliminary forecast is that 3,000 chinook will be available for harvest.

Anglers will face the same rules as on other salmon fisheries in the state, with one exception. All anglers must check their fish at an F&G check station located on the South Fork of the Salmon River Road.

Getting accurate fish counts is vital to keeping the fisheries open as long as possible, according to Sharon Kiefer, F&G anadromous fish manager.

How long the season lasts is determined by several factors, including how many hatchery fish are harvested and how many wild fish are incidentally caught.

All wild fish must be released unharmed. They can be identified by their adipose fins located on their backs in front of their tails. The fin is clipped off hatchery salmon.

The South Fork will open three days after the season on the Main Salmon River closes on June 16.

Salmon are arriving late this year, especially compared to last year´s run that rocketed up drought-stricken rivers.

Few fish have been caught on the Main Salmon this year because of the late-arriving run and high flows.

Idaho Salmon and Steelhead Unlimited, a group that represents sport anglers, asked F&G to extend the season 10 days.

“Commercial, Indian and sport anglers from Astoria, Ore., to Chinook, Wash., have had a chance to fish for these Idaho salmon in mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers; now it´s Idaho´s turn,” Nick Nicholson of ISSU said.

Kiefer said the intent of the Main Salmon fishery is to intercept salmon headed for the Rapid River hatchery, a tributary of the Little Salmon River.

“We know a big chunk of those hatchery fish have already moved out of the main river,” Kiefer said.

Wild salmon typically arrive later. Extending the season would increase the likelihood of anglers catching those protected fish, she said.

Nicholson said wild salmon are easily identifiable and can be released unharmed if caught incidentally, and with salmon arriving later, they are less likely to catch those wild fish.

“The summer run is just now entering the Columbia River,” Nicholson said. “An extra 10 days of fishing on the Salmon certainly will not impact those fish and will ease the congestion on the Little Salmon by spreading fishermen over a larger area.”

So far, the salmon season is looking good on paper, but much slower on the rivers.

More than 60,000 chinook have crossed Lower Granite Dam, the last one the fish cross before reaching Idaho.

Anglers statewide have spent 108,000 hours to harvest about 4,100 fish, an average of 26 hours fishing for every salmon caught. Last year, Idaho anglers caught 47,300 salmon.

But fish are swimming against high flows and cold water this spring, which is delaying their return to Idaho rivers and making angling more difficult.

Fishing is expected to improve when river flows decrease and the water warms.

Roger Phillips
More Salmon Fishing Available
Idaho Statesman, June 7, 2002

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