No Chinook fishery proposal on the South Fork Salmon River this year

First of all, I’d like to introduce myself to you all. I’m the new Regional Fisheries Manager in the McCall area, and I’m excited to serve you all in the future. I’m also excited to gather your input to help us further develop management strategies for our fisheries. In this position I’m involved in managing anadromous fisheries in the Salmon River basin, especially for the Little Salmon River and the South Fork Salmon River.

As you are all probably aware by now, we did not propose a Chinook fishery on the South Fork Salmon River this year. Please allow me to provide some more background on the situation.

This year, our estimated harvest share for the South Fork Salmon (the number of fish returning in excess of broodstock needs) looks like it will be somewhere between 100 and 200 fish. Because this number is so low, we decided that the risk of overharvesting in a single day of fishing is too high to hold this fishery. We can’t run the risk of not meeting broodstock needs if we wish to have salmon fisheries in future years.

We are committed to managing anadromous fisheries in a way that 1) minimizes impacts to natural-origin fish, 2) ensures hatchery broodstock needs are met, and 3) provides harvest opportunity for hatchery fish that are in excess of broodstock needs. In low run years like this, it becomes difficult to operate a fishery while maintaining those values.

I am a die-hard South Fork angler myself, so I hate that I won’t be able to participate in a fishery this year, especially in my new capacity as Fisheries Manager. However, what I’d like to do now is focus on improving our management of these fisheries in the future, when more fish come back.

You can help our agency develop strategies we could use in the future to manage the South Fork Chinook fishery. With extremely low returns like this year our options are limited, which is why we did not propose a fishery. Even with a slightly higher return, a fishery would have been very short in duration. For example, in 2013 the fishery only lasted six days before harvest share was reached (541 fish). Around 170 fish were caught each day, during the first two days of the fishery. Even in years like 2013, there are potentially different ways we could structure the season to increase the duration of the fishery and allow folks more fishing opportunity.

I’d like to work with you all to develop season-structure recommendations for the future based on varying levels of returns, similar to how the Clearwater Basin fisheries operate. For example, if between 500 and 1,000 fish are available for harvest in the South Fork Salmon, perhaps the season and bag limits could be more restrictive (ex. three days/week with a one fish daily limit). On the other hand, if the estimated harvest share was over 2,000 fish, perhaps rules that allowed fishing seven days/week with a two fish daily limit would be more appropriate. Or, maybe you’d still like some restrictions so the fishery will last longer? - That’s what I’d like to learn from you. There are many options on the table, and I will be reaching out to anglers this winter to develop these recommendations for future fisheries.

Keep in mind, agency staff only develop recommendations; the IDFG commission sets seasons.

It is important to me that I have angler input as we develop future South Fork Salmon fishery recommendations, as well as your ideas for other aspects of our fisheries management. As such, I am developing an angler email contact list, and you’re invited to be part of it. If this interests you, please send me an email at jordan.messner@idfg.idaho.gov with ‘angler email list’ in the subject line. You’ll receive Chinook updates as well as links to blog posts to keep you in the know about other McCall-area fisheries. And when it comes time to start developing Chinook fishery recommendations for the South Fork Salmon in the future, I'll be reaching out to you for your input.

Thanks for being engaged in our fisheries management, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.