Skip to main content

Idaho Fish and Game


Video: Biologists snorkel headwaters streams to seek and count young salmon and steelhead


By Colette Crawford, 2021 Lewiston Wild Salmon and Steelhead Snorkel Crew Member

Chinook salmon and steelhead trout populations have been returning to Idaho to spawn for thousands of years. Recently, their numbers have been adversely affected by many factors and we have a neat way to track these trends.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has been monitoring the offspring of Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Clearwater, Salmon, and Snake River drainages since 1985 using snorkel surveys. Snorkel surveys are conducted by crews across the state and are a lot different from swimming in the calm, warm waters of the Caribbean. They involve crawling upstream in Idaho’s cold, fast-flowing tributary streams to observe and count fishes.

Snorkeling is a great way to sample because of its low impact on the ecosystem. The data has been collected for several years, so there is plenty of information to compare. It is a quick process once the survey site is reached. In addition, crews can cover a lot of water in a relatively short time span.

Snorkel data shows us where Chinook salmon and steelhead populations are located, their densities, and where they return to spawn. This helps resource managers make informed decisions that affect Idaho’s Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

For more information on Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead click here.