On May 14 the Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved Chinook salmon seasons for several river reaches in Idaho, including the upper Salmon River between the city of Salmon and the Sawtooth Hatchery near Stanley.
Unlike other salmon fisheries in the state, when the season opens in the upper Salmon River on June 20, no harvest of Chinook less than 24 inches in total length, commonly referred to as jacks, will be allowed. A number of anglers have inquired why.
Simply put, the Chinook jack closure is intended to protect adult sockeye salmon. This year, fish managers estimate as many as 600 adult sockeye will return to the upper Salmon River. Sockeye are similar in size and could be easily confused with a jack Chinook. Sockeye will be returning to the upper river at about the same time as Chinook, and it is important to prevent the unintentional harvest of a sockeye by Chinook salmon anglers.
In the upper Salmon River, sockeye will be concentrated in greater numbers, and their susceptibility to harvest is greater than in lower reaches of the Salmon River.
Sockeye are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and their protection and recovery are important to Idaho. While the Chinook jack closure is an inconvenience and a lost opportunity for anglers, it provides an extra degree of protection to one of Idaho's most imperiled fishes.
That extra degree of protection for sockeye helps fish managers in the process of opening and managing Chinook salmon fisheries in the upper Salmon River.