A Salmon Season is Possible This Summerby Karen Posada
Challis Messenger - April 7, 2005
Anglers may have the chance to fish for Chinook salmon on the Upper Salmon River this summer, thanks to the efforts of a determined group of local sportsmen.
NOAA Fisheries has agreed to issue a permit that would allow fishermen to harvest surplus hatchery salmon returning to the Pahsimeroi and Sawtooth hatcheries.
The permit has the appropriate signatures from state and regional offices and will be sent to NOAA officials for final approval this week.
The permit will be in place for five years, although the Idaho Department of Fish and Game must reapply to open the river for salmon fishing each year.
There’s been talk of such a permit for years, but one hasn’t been granted.
The push for the permit began as a conversation between two Challis business owners and friends, but then became an obsession for Gary Kimble and Tom Coates.
From conversations with officials at the Pahsimeroi and Sawtooth hatcheries, the men knew excess fish were returning to both locations.
After some initial phone calls, Kimble and Coates learned that Tom Curet, Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Salmon, had completed the necessary fisheries plan and sent it on to NOAA’s regional office in Boise, but the permit had not been processed. Kimble and Coates began working the phones in earnest, calling NOAA’s regional office in Boise and working their way up the chain of command in Portland and Spokane. Finally, the two men made a call to U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s office and explained the situation. That phone call and a visit to the state capital by a group called Idaho Rivers United made it clear this group of concerned citizens wanted answers about why a permit had not been issued.
After two public meetings with NOAA representatives from Boise and Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials, things began to happen.
“Hats off to the local anglers,” Curet said. “Their determination in making sure the permit was on track made this happen.”
Curet said that as soon as the locals got involved, he received phone calls from NOAA’s regional directors. “Tom and Gary were great about keeping me informed as to what they were doing to try to move the process along,” Curet said.
Now that the logistics are in place, the next hurdle will be whether or not an excess number of fish come through to the Upper Salmon.
Curet explained that in the next three to four weeks, the department will know if sufficient numbers of fish have passed the Bonneville Dam to warrant a season.
After that, the department will determine the composition of fish – the number of wild fish versus the number of hatchery fish – at the Lower Granite Dam.
If the river does open for salmon fishing, the length of the season will depend on the number and composition of fish. The season could begin in early June.
“In about a month, we’ll start letting people know what the guidelines will be for salmon fishing,” Curet said. “This is the first time in 30 years that people will have an opportunity to fish for salmon on this part of the river. We will be monitoring anglers closely.”
As for the two men whose efforts were instrumental in pushing the permit through, they could not be happier.
“I’m just glad we got this far,” said Kimble.
Coates agreed and said various economic studies has shown that a salmon season has significant positive impact on the local economy.
“I’ve read estimates that every fish represents between $500 and $1,000 to the local economy. Last year, 3,000 fish were killed at the hatcheries and given away. If the fishermen had gotten a shot at them, we could have injected $1.5 million into our economy,” Coates said.
Kimble and Coates are encouraging area businesses to consider adjusting their business hours to accommodate fishermen if the upper Salmon river opens this summer.
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