Salmon fishing in Idaho closed for the year at the end of the day Thursday, July 17.
Jeff Thomasen had been fishing from the rocks at Sunbeam Dam since fishing opened on the last day of the first season in 30 years on the Upper Salmon River. He and his fishing buddy Mike Nelson hauled in two jacks and a nice female Chinook. Nelson also hooked a wild fish, and they let it go.
"It's a big damn deal," Thomasen said. His parents bought the Sunbeam store in the 1950s, and he grew up fishing at the dam. But with the demise of salmon fishing they sold the store and it has since closed.
Thomasen hasn't stopped fishing there. He would like to see a salmon fishing season every year - even if it has to be done on a lottery basis, such as controlled hunts for elk or bighorn sheep. It would give a boost to the local economy, he said.
"Salmon fishing, there's nothing like it," Nelson said.
Like a lot of other anglers fishing on the Upper Salmon, the two look forward with hope to another season on the Upper Salmon River next year.
Statewide, anglers caught and kept 10,062 adult and 4,078 jack Chinook this year. They caught 2,412 adults and jacks last year.
Spring and summer Chinook salmon counted at Lower Granite Dam in southeastern Washington through July 15 totaled:
- 70,799 adults and 15,726 jacks in 2008
- 28,619 adults and 11,630 jacks in 2007
- 27,958 adults and 1,456 jacks in 2006
- 33,141 adults and 2,108 jacks in 2005
The 10-year average by July 15 is 59,054 adults and 6,145 jacks at Lower Granite. Jacks are fish that return from the ocean after only one year.
Though not always an accurate forecast, the jack count is a good indictor of a large return of adults in the following year. The high jack count this year bodes well for next year's salmon season.
Jack numbers this year are better than 2000 when 13,711 jacks returned and 2003 when 11,933 returned. Those years were followed by large runs of adult Chinook - almost 184,000 in 2001 and about 79,000 in 2004 - as of July 15.
The final numbers for the 2008 Chinook season in Idaho: (Except on the South Fork Salmon River)
Upper Salmon River:
- 670 total caught and kept - 388 adults, 282 jacks - average 21 angler-hours per fish kept.
South Fork Salmon River: (As of July 16)
- 3,557 total caught and kept - 2,785 adults, 772 jacks - average 11 angler-hours per fish kept.
Clearwater drainage, including the Clearwater mainstem, North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork and Lochsa rivers:
- 4,279 total caught and kept - 3,198 adults, 1,081 jacks - average 19 angler-hours per fish kept.
Lower and Little Salmon rivers:
- 5,267 total - 3,845 adults, 1,422 jacks - average 10 angler-hours per fish kept.
- 924 total - 340 adults 584 jacks - average 10 angler-hours per fish kept.
- 14,697 total - 10,556 adults, 4,141 jacks.