F&G Explains Salmon Closures
Idaho Statesman, July 2, 2009
State must fill hatcheries and comply with quotas.
Several factors affect when Idaho Department of Fish and Game closes salmon seasons, including the number of hatchery fish caught, how many are needed for hatcheries, and how many wild fish are incidentally killed during the season.
Returning surplus hatchery salmon -marked by clipped adipose fin - are split among hatcheries and tribal and recreational fisheries.
The first priority is to ensure that hatcheries are filled to capacity. The eggs are collected, then hatched and raised, and the juveniles released two years later as ocean-bound smolts.
Some smolts are marked with tags that can be read at several dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers when they return as adults.
F&G uses data from these tags to estimate how many adults will return to Idaho hatcheries, and numbers in excess of what the hatcheries need are available for harvest.
The Rapid River Hatchery near Riggins needs about 2,400 adult salmon. The McCall Hatchery needs about 1,300 adult salmon, which are trapped from the South Fork of the Salmon River.
If an estimated 4,400 salmon are bound for Rapid River, then about 2,000 "harvestable" fish would be split evenly between tribal and sport anglers.
During the fishing season, F&G personnel monitor the sport harvest, and when sport shares are reached, the fishing season ends, even if there are still fish in the river.
Sport fishing seasons sometimes close earlier than tribal harvest because there are more sport anglers, and their fisheries are often downstream of tribal fisheries.
F&G might also close a fishing season when a certain number of wild chinook, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act, are caught and released.
The number is based on a formula that assumes a certain percentage of wild salmon die after being caught and released.
There are strict federal limits on how many wild salmon can be incidentally killed during sport seasons. Federal law requires that sport fishing stop regardless of how many hatchery fish are still in the river.
In opening and closing seasons, fisheries managers try to balance the incidental wild fish kills among the different fisheries on certain stretches of river.
If hatchery fish in excess of hatchery needs are left in the river when the seasons close, they are trapped and distributed to tribes and food banks.
They may be allowed to spawn naturally in selected streams where they will not affect natural populations.
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