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Commission to Consider More Salmon Seasons

Contact: Bill Horton 334-3791 The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet by telephone conference call Wednesday, May 30, to consider additional seasons for hatchery chinook salmon. Some seasons could begin as soon as June 1, although the actual dates, limits and river segments to be opened will not be set until the Commission meets. A season will be proposed for the South Fork of the Salmon River. Also, seasons will be proposed for sections of the Boise and Payette rivers, and perhaps the Weiser River. Salmon fishing in these rivers would be possible because hatchery salmon would be transported from Rapid River Hatchery. Historically, salmon runs and fishing occurred in the Boise, Weiser, Payette and Owyhee rivers and other tributaries of the Snake River. Rapid River Hatchery, on a tributary of the Little Salmon River, was built by Idaho Power Company to mitigate for the loss of the salmon fishing opportunity due to construction of the Hells Canyon complex of hydroelectric dams. "We have more than enough salmon to provide exciting fisheries in the lower and Little Salmon rivers, and to meet the needs of the Rapid River Hatchery program," Bill Horton, Anadromous Fisheries Coordinator, said. "This large run of hatchery fish allows us to offer the opportunity for anglers to catch salmon in streams where chinook salmon used to migrate naturally." The large number of salmon migrating from the ocean this year is a result of a large outgoing juvenile migration in 1999. Good river conditions when the smolts migrated downstream to the ocean, along with good ocean conditions, resulted in a higher survival rate. The result is a much larger adult return with more than 136,000 chinook salmon across Lower Granite Dam before the Memorial Day weekend. It is a scenario that won't likely be repeated soon, according to Horton. "If you really want to catch a salmon, this is the year to do it." Only hatchery salmon may be kept in this year's season. They can be identified because they are missing the adipose fin, which was clipped off before these salmon left the fish hatchery as juveniles. Wild salmon must be returned to the water unharmed to continue their spawning migration.