The South Fork Salmon River Chinook fishery has been open for almost two full weeks now. Effort has been very minimal and no anglers have reported catching a salmon on the South Fork yet, but I’m very happy to report to you that the fish are beginning to show up!
Three PIT tagged adult Chinook Salmon have been detected at the Krassel Cr array on the South Fork so far – all this week. This expands to roughly 100-200 adults in the South Fork right now. It is remarkable that all three of those fish crossed Lower Granite Dam over a month ago – a distance that usually takes about 2 weeks for them to travel. High runoff in the Salmon, Snake, and Columbia Rivers certainly slowed fish down this year on their migration back to Idaho. Now that flows are dropping, we are seeing a lot more detections of South Fork fish crossing over the dams, and fish are finally starting to show up at the South Fork! Hatchery staff installed the weir on 6/27, but have not yet trapped any Chinook Salmon on the South Fork.
In the past week, we’ve seen another pulse of South Fork Chinook crossing over Bonneville Dam, which is great! So far we estimate over 4,100 South Fork adults have crossed over Bonneville Dam and they’re still coming. We’ll still have to wait and see how many of those fish make it over Lower Granite Dam to determine final harvest share, but it is still looking like we’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of 800 – 1,000 adults available for harvest in the non-tribal fishery.
Of the 4,100 South Fork fish that have come over Bonneville so far, over 2,100 of those fish have also crossed over Lower Granite Dam into Idaho (1,100 of those were in the past 7 days). Again, on average it takes about 2 weeks to reach the Krassel Cr array from Lower Granite Dam, so we’ll be seeing around 1,000 fish trickling into the South Fork over the next week, then we’ll see a big pulse start showing up in about a week and a half. I anticipate that effort will start increasing this week and into the holiday weekend, and we’re likely to see a few fish getting caught over this next week. The following weekend (July 8 - 10) catch rates will likely increase considerably. Once the fish show up, this fishery may not last very long – it is not uncommon to see 150+ fish harvested per day when fishing is good on the South Fork.
I hope many of you have gotten the chance to enjoy the relatively good salmon returns this year – I know I have. As we shift from spring Chinook fisheries to the summer-run fisheries, I feel that it’s a good time to keep some of these things in mind. While you’re out there enjoying this awesome resource, please remember:
- Be courteous and respectful of other anglers – we are all on the river for the same reason – because we enjoy it. Find common ground and enjoy the resource together. Fishing is supposed to be relaxing and fun – if you’re not going to relax and have fun you might as well just go to work instead.
- Be courteous and respectful of IDFG creel staff – we can only have fisheries if we have staff to monitor them. Staff monitor these fisheries for YOU – so that you can fish. If you have issues with the way we operate our fisheries, reach out to the fisheries managers and get involved in the public scoping process, but please be nice to creel clerks!
- Practice responsible stewardship – You’re all out there enjoying the resources, so you’re all stewards of the resources. Keep up the good work with cleaning up garbage and minimizing our footprint to ensure we can continue to operate these fisheries long into the future. We'll continue handing out garbage bags throughout the fisheries, and we really appreciate that you've all been helping us on this front.
A few reminders specific to the South Fork:
- Fishing is open 7 days a week from 5:30a to 10:00p MDT. Daily limit is 4 Chinook Salmon, only 2 of which may be adults
- The lower boundary of the non-tribal fishery this year is at Jakie Creek Bridge (see map)
- If recycling occurs this year, we will be recycling at Goat Creek.
- No parking is allowed ON the South Fork road. Please keep tires off the pavement when parked. USFS staff will be enforcing this.