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Salmon Season to Start May 11

by Roger Phillips
Idaho Statesman, May 4, 2007

Salmon season to start May 11, but with fewer fish than in recent runs

Idaho salmon anglers will get a fishing season, but the number of fish available will be a shadow of recent runs.

Idaho Fish and Game commissioners today approved a spring chinook fishing season starting May 11 on the Clearwater River, Snake River in Hells Canyon, Lower Salmon River and the Little Salmon River, and May 26 opener on the Lochsa River.

Fishing will be limited to Friday through Monday each week, and fewer river miles will be open than in recent years.

Anglers will be able to keep one salmon per day, have three in possession, and 10 for the season. Only chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be kept.

F&G estimates about 1,700 surplus hatchery salmon will be available for sport fishing. Last year, anglers harvested 2,167 salmon during spring and a brief summer season.

"It's going to be a smaller fishery this year than last year, likely with a smaller catch and maybe a little shorter season, but that can change as the fish come in," said Sam Sharr, anadromous fish coordinator for F&G.

Commissioners set closing dates between July 16 and Aug. 5, depending on the river, but fishing is unlikely to last that long.

Idaho's salmon runs have been on the decline since 2001 when a bumper salmon crop allowed anglers to harvest over 41,000 salmon.

Sharr expects the entire run of spring chinook over Lower Granite Dam -- which includes wild and hatchery fish -- to be about 27,700 fish, compared with 32,664 salmon in 2006.

Of this year's return, 16,800 are expected to be hatchery fish, which are used to replenish hatcheries, then the surplus fish are divided between tribal and sport anglers.

"Management is going to be fairly conservative," Sharr said. "We want to make sure we get our brood stock."

Sharr estimates about 450 to 500 salmon will available for sport harvest in the Salmon River system, about 1,050 in the Clearwater system, and about 130 in the Snake River. He said those numbers could change after managers get an accurate count of the returning fish.

Salmon cross the dams from spring through fall. The fish that arrive during spring provide most of the sport fishing.

One bright spot in an otherwise lackluster season is a larger portion of 5-year-old salmon. Those are the bigger fish because they spend an extra year in the ocean. Typically, they account for about 20 percent of the run, but about 40 percent of this year's run is expected to be five-year-olds, Sharr said.

It's too early to determine whether enough salmon will return to have a summer season on the South Fork of the Salmon River, he said.

In a typical year, salmon cross Lower Granite Dam in small numbers starting in March. The number of returning fish gradually builds then grows exponentially during the peak run between late April and mid May.

A portion of the salmon are embedded with tags that identify from which hatchery they originated. Those tags are identified when the fish pass through the dams, and the tags determine which river the fish will return to.

Roger Phillips
Salmon Season to Start May 11
Idaho Statesman, May 4, 2007

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