Summer chinook fishing on the famed South Fork of the Salmon River appears to be a possibility.
Fish and Game biologists are busily tracking the beginning of the summer chinook run for clues as to whether there will be enough surplus hatchery summer chinook salmon returning to the South Fork of the Salmon River (SFSR) this year to offer a sport fishery. The most recent chinook season held in this drainage was in 1997. The SFSR is an important natural chinook production area where listed natural-origin fish are returning to the drainage. Similar to the current spring chinook fisheries, if a fishery is held, only adipose fin-clipped hatchery fish may be harvested and all other chinook salmon must be released.
Official counts of summer chinook began at Bonneville Dam on June 1 and counts of summer chinook will start at Lower Granite Dam on June 18. However, some hatchery summer chinook bound for the SFSR are known to have already crossed Lower Granite Dam, based on detection at the dam of a unique tag that they carry. The preseason forecast for the adult, upriver summer chinook run entering the Columbia River is 33,300. The forecast for Lower Granite Dam is 5,800 summer chinook adults, of which 4,300 would be hatchery-origin. The majority of these fish are expected to return to the South Fork.
Department staff will make their recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission in a conference call on June 20. If the runsize will support a fishery, the staff fishery recommendation will also include the following key elements for angler consideration:
- Open the season fishery on June 30. It will run until further notice or August 4, whichever comes first;
- Fishery area on mainstem South Fork Salmon River would be from a posted boundary near the weir (one to two hundred yards) downstream to Goat Creek;
- Fishery open seven days a week;
- Fishing hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (MDT);
- Barbless hook only;
- Limits of two per day and four in possession. The statewide season limit would remain at 20, to include the SFSR.
As in 1997, there will be a mandatory check required. Under this rule, all salmon harvested from the SFSR must be checked by IDFG on the day they are caught. IDFG will be operating a check station located at Knox Ranch on the South Fork Road, about _ mile north of the Warm Lake Highway for anglers to check their fish.
With two successful spring chinook fisheries going on where anglers have collectively harvested more than 5,000 spring chinook, anglers should take note that the statewide season limit will still be 20. That means anglers need to leave a few slots open on their salmon permit if they intend to fish for summer chinook in the South Fork.
Anglers are encouraged to contact the Fisheries Bureau, the Directors Office, or their Fish and Game commissioner with comments about this proposed fishery.