As the weather warms, many anglers are thinking of fishing again, and several have been asking about our population surveys on the South Fork Snake. Below is a summary of our last survey, which occurred in October of 2016.
South Fork Snake River 2016 fall population estimates
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game continued annual fish population monitoring at the Conant and Lorenzo monitoring reaches of the South Fork Snake River in the fall of 2016 to evaluate the effectiveness of management actions on the river. Data from these surveys are used in decision making to achieve the goals outlined in the state fish management plan which include preserving the genetic integrity and population viability of native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout and reducing Rainbow Trout abundance to less than 10% of the species composition at the Conant monitoring reach in the upper river. This is an initial summary of our 2016 data from these reaches and may be subject to change with further review and analysis.
Total trout abundance at Conant changed from 4,032 trout/mile in 2015 to 3,758 trout/mile in 2016, which is slightly below the ten year average (2006-2015) of 4,253 trout/mile. The 2016 estimate for Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout [YCT] was slightly below the 10 year average with 1,450 YCT/mile (10 year average = 1,758). The Rainbow Trout estimate (1,295 RBT/mile) was also below the 10 year average of 1,573 RBT/mile. The Brown Trout (BNT) estimate (1,013 BNT/mile), however, was slightly above the 10 year average of 922 BNT/mile.
We also estimated the abundance of Mountain Whitefish (MWF) at Conant after a fish kill event this year involving Whitefish and PKD (Proliferative Kidney Disease). Our most recent Mountain Whitefish estimate prior to 2016 was conducted in 2012. Here are the results from these two surveys at the Conant reach:
2012 – 11,427 MWF/mile (±8,968)
2016 – 15,793 MWF/mile (±2,993)
Survey results from 2016 suggest that reductions in the population of whitefish in the river resulting from the outbreak of PKD were not significant, and whitefish appear to be thriving in the South Fork.
Cutthroat estimates at the Lorenzo monitoring reach are near their ten year average, while Brown Trout estimates increased over 2015, and are now higher than their 10 year average. The Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout estimate for 2016 was 344 YCT/mile, similar to their 10-year average of 378 YCT/mile. We estimated there were 2,172 BNT/mile which exceeds the ten year average for BNT at Lorenzo of 1,588 BNT/mile. We captured 36 Rainbow Trout during our electrofishing survey at the Lorenzo reach which represented 2% of the total catch and was similar to previous surveys.