Meeting by conference call on June 8, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission approved a summer chinook salmon season on the South Fork of the Salmon River. The season will open June 19 and will end August 4, or earlier if needed for biological reasons.
The preseason forecast is that about 6,700 hatchery adult chinook salmon will enter the South Fork, heading for the salmon weir and trap. Typically, about 1,000 are needed for broodstock for the McCall Fish Hatchery program, so this year's runsize should provide enough fish for broodstock and recreational and treaty fisheries.
The weir and trap on the upper South Fork is part of the McCall Hatchery program, which is operated by Idaho Department of Fish and Game and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via a program called the Lower Snake River Compensation Program. This program is part of the federal mitigation for the construction and operation of the four lower Snake River dams located downstream of Lewiston.
"We estimate that about 1,400 hatchery fish bound for the upper South Fork of the Salmon River have already crossed Lower Granite Dam, with additional fish arriving daily," Sharon Kiefer, IDFG Anadromous Fishery Manager, said. "The early part of the run had more three-ocean fish, so we expect those big fish may be the first arriving into the fishery area. Because we are opening the fishery during the early portion of the run, there won't be as many fish at first. Folks who will only get a few chances to fish the South Fork would probably find more fish available, and better catch rates, later in June or early July. However, anglers who decide to try the fishery early will be providing us with useful management information about the presence of fish, because it is a bit of a guessing game once the fish cross Lower Granite Dam to determine when they arrive in the fishery area."
The season is structured similar to last year's. A notable change is that fishing hours will be from a half hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, which is consistent with the ongoing spring chinook fisheries in the rest of the state. The limit will be two per day, six in possession, and 20 for the season. The season limit is consistent statewide and any salmon kept from any of the other open fishing areas must count toward the season total of 20 salmon.
The fishing area boundaries are: mainstem of the South Fork of the Salmon River from the mouth of Goat Creek upstream about six miles to a posted boundary about 100 yards downstream from the South Fork Salmon River weir and trap.
Only hatchery chinook with a clipped adipose fin (as evidenced by a healed scar) may be kept. All salmon with a non-clipped adipose fin must be released immediately. Only barbless hooks are allowed and bait may be used. Hooks may be no larger than 5/8 inch from point to shank.
All salmon harvested from the South Fork of the Salmon River must be checked by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game no later than 11 p.m. on the day they are reduced to possession. Salmon must be checked at the IDFG check station located at Knox Ranch on the South Fork road, FS #474, about one half mile north of the Warm Lake highway.