The Idaho Fish and Game Commission heard a summary of the recently completed survey of anglers that was done after this summer’s chinook fishing season at its November 28-30 Boise meeting. The presentation by Fish and Game anadromous fish manager Sharon Kiefer showed how anglers in Idaho responded to the largest recorded run of hatchery chinook. About nine percent of the 43,860 holders of salmon permits sold this year were sampled and about 70 percent of those returned a useable response to the survey.
Measuring only direct costs, the survey showed anglers spending at least $371 per fishing trip with an average of $90 going for non-fishing supplies, $80 for lodging, $80 for transportation, $70 for fishing supplies, $60 for groceries and $40 in restaurants. The average trip was two days.
Asked what they would do if there were no salmon fishing available in Idaho, 60 percent said they would go elsewhere and 39 percent said they had traveled out of state in the last five years to fish for salmon. About 61 percent said the trips they took in Idaho were worth more than they spent. And 90 percent said it was “important” to “extremely important” to have this kind of opportunity in Idaho every year.
Idaho’s salmon season was enjoyed mostly by Idahoans—87 percent of anglers this year—but five percent came from Washington and four percent from Montana. The rest came from 21 other states. Surveyed anglers came from 42 of Idaho’s 44 counties.
Of the 124,350 angler trips taken, the lower Clearwater received the most at 32,847 but the Little Salmon River saw 25,990, the South Fork of the Clearwater 14,915 and the lower Salmon River 10,838. Even the Boise River—where chinook were planted by Fish and Game because the river has long since lost its natural runs—drew 8,832 trips. The South Fork of the Salmon was visited in 9,363 trips and the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River drew in 9,432 trips. Panther Creek near Salmon, another stream where salmon were trucked in, was the destination for 1,122 trips. The North Fork of the Payette River was also artificially planted and drew 790 trips.
The 2001 run dwarfed the figures in the last survey, done when there was a season in 1997. The number of permit holders more than doubled from 20,130 in 1997. Expenditures were seven times the 1997 estimate of $6.4 million. This year’s run size of 140,860 hatchery fish over Lower Granite Dam was 3.8 times the 37,300 in 1997. Natural fish, which must be returned unharmed to the water, numbered 44,840 this year, compared to 7,260 in 1997.
While the numbers show the season was important to anglers and to the economy, the bleak side of the picture is that fisheries managers cannot forecast the next time spring runoff and ocean conditions will combine to bring this big of a run back to Idaho.