Friday, February 13, 2009

Stanley may see salmon anglers for a second year

F&G: Up to 127,000 chinook salmon may return to Idaho this year


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Four-year-old Hailey angler Alexis Burk, standing next to Gaylynn and Rick Burk, fishes for chinook salmon along the upper Salmon River downstream of Stanley last summer. The Burks were taking part in the first chinook season along the upper Salmon in 31 years. This summer, local anglers may get another chance to pursue the popular gamefish in the Stanley area, according to fisheries officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Photo by Willy Cook

Idaho fisheries managers are expecting another season of positive salmon returns this year. According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the size of the chinook salmon run that's beginning to head up the lower end of the Columbia River system will likely give Idaho anglers a crack at the popular game fish this year.

"We're confident that enough chinook will return to Idaho this spring for a mid- to late-April season opening," Anadromous Fish Manager Pete Hassemer told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

The size of the run may even allow Idaho fisheries managers to open up another chinook salmon season on the upper Salmon River, a Fish and Game news release states. Last summer, large returns of chinook prompted officials to approve a limited season for the powerful gamefish on the stretch of river near Stanley for the first time in 31 years.

The Fish and Game predictions are based in part on the number of jack chinook salmon that returned last year. Jacks are young male salmon that return to spawn in their river of origin after spending only one year in salt water. Fish and Game considers jacks as any chinook less than 24 inches long.

Last summer's jack salmon returns suggest more than 105,000 hatchery chinook and more than 22,000 wild chinook may cross Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River this year. Most of the fish that cross the dam in southeast Washington are bound for the Salmon and Clearwater river basins in Idaho.

The number of returning wild fish is the fourth largest since 1979, Fish and Game reported.

The predicted return of hatchery fish means the share for Idaho recreational anglers could be more than 9,000 fish on the Clearwater River, more than 9,000 on the lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers and nearly 1,400 on the Snake.

Idaho fisheries managers expect to propose fishing seasons on the Clearwater, Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake rivers in March, Hassemer said. Later on in May, they expect to propose summer seasons on the upper Salmon River and South Fork Salmon River.

Chinook salmon fishing seasons can be set only by the Fish and Game commissioners.

Idaho fisheries managers haven't said what sort of sockeye salmon returns the Sawtooth Valley can expect this summer. Last summer, 636 of the famous "red fish" arrived home to the Sawtooth Valley, far more than the previous high of 257 that swam upstream to the valley in 2000, which was the next highest return since 1985.

However, based on the large number of sockeye smolts that left the valley during the spring of 2007, some fisheries managers have predicted positive returns this summer. Key to this will be the ocean conditions and river flows the Idaho sockeye face, said Dan Baker, hatchery manager at the Eagle Fish Hatchery, last fall.

Jason Kauffman: jkauffman@mtexpress.com




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