Well I'll probly be there then too. Maybe we'll run into each other (unless I freak out and blast up to Orofino). That would be cool though, cuz it seems like we fish alot of the same places, and maybe I could learn a thing or two from ya.
Also I have a degree in fisheries from USU and I'm a total numbers cruncher, so I have some really extensive excell spreadsheets on these Idaho Chinook. I have tracked the dam passage at Bonneville, Ice Harbor, and Lower Granite in 1997, and 2000-current, and a whole bunch of other stuff including PIT tag passage, river mile data, travel rates, river flows, and a record of every salmon I have ever tagged in Idaho since 2000.
Just recently I came up with some kinda interesting figures. In all the years that I have tracked the dam passage, an average of 27.8 % (low of 15% and high of 41%) of the fish that cross Bonneville cross Lower Granite (sad huh?) Also right now, 27.6% of the PIT tagged fish that have crossed Bonneville are destined for the Rapid River Hatchery; which should project to close to 27.6% of the total Bonneville passage to date. Last year 71.7% of the Rapid River Hatchery PIT tagged fish that crossed Bonneville, made it over Lower Granite as well.
So when we see that 22,015 Chinook have crossed Bonneville to date, that seems like alot of salmon. But the total passage @ Lower Granite is only going to be about 28% of the Bonneville passage. The bottom line is that we lose alot of fish along the way (plus a good share are destined for other tribs between Bonneville and LG). I'm not really sure what to attribute that loss to, whether it be tribal, commercial, or sport fishing (I don't beleive there has been commercial fishing through the dam stretches for the last several years). But I have heard from multiple sources who have witnessed the Lower Columbia/Lower Snake this time of year say that the only way a salmon or steelhead can make it up through all the gillnets in that stretch is swimming right underneath the barges.
That 28% figure though is really only good for using the total passage @ Bonneville to predict the total passage @ LG. So it's nothing to really get too discouraged about (unless you use it to calculate what kind of passage we would need at Bonneville to meet the 128,000 and change that was forecast for LG this year)
A better figure to estimate the fish lost along the way is the 72% figure that I mentioned above. What that is saying is that last year, 28% of the fish destined for the Little Salmon River, that crossed Bonneville dam, either got lost, harvested, or otherwise killed before they made it to Lower Granite.
If very much of that can be attributed to tribal or sport fishing, then I have a bone to pick. The Idaho F & G closely moniters downriver fishing (and usually pre-emptively closes the Lower Salmon) to protect endangered upriver runs. I can only imagine how many different runs and subspecies of salmon and steelhead (endangered wild, as well as hatchery) are mixed in, in the Lower Snake and Lower Columbia. With that in mind, in my opinion, there shouldn't be any fishing whatsoever in those stretches, because there is no way of telling where a fish caught down there is headed.
Well thanks for the great insight and education, I do appreciate your time and help figuring out how the runs occur and dams influence the runs.
The fisheries management term would be "stock". Idaho F&G actually uses the same stock of Chinook for alot the salmon runs in Idaho, and mixes and matches to meet the quotas at the different hatcheries. If I am not mistaken, all the fish returning to Hells Canyon, all the Clearwater tribs and the Little Salmon (or Rapid River) are all the same stock. Some of the unique stocks that are the offspring of original historic wild fish include the fish that return to the SF Salmon (McCall Hatchery), Pahsimeroi River, and the Sawtooth hatchery, and are never mixed and matched. You can find some good info about all that on IF&G's Chinook Salmon Hatcheries web page.
Now Idaho did historically have an exceptional run of Sockeye, that made the full trek to Redfish Lake near Stanley (hence the name). I can't speak for how much effort they put into recovering those fish, but I guess it wasn't enough.
The department head and some people from USU have conducted some published studies on those fish dealing with how large the smolts are when they head downriver. It was a theory that since Redfish Lake had become more Oligotrophic (clearer = less algae = less zooplankton, which the young fish feed on) than in the years that the runs were strong. So perhaps we couldn't get good returns because the fish weren't as large heading down the river to the ocean, and as a result were having less success surviving the trek downriver.
The largest documented dam passage (1200 and change) is at Ice Harbor back in the mid 60's when it was the only dam on the lower Snake. However, last year we had a little over 900 cross LG, which is the largest return we have had since the 60's and maybe early 70's. The good news is that IF&G had just completed a new facility dedicated entirely to Sockeye salmon, and that large return of fish was transferred there for processing. Hopefully they are going to start putting a little more focus into recovering those fish, and the combination of a new facility, and a large return of fish will provide a good foundation for doing so.
As a side note, one year back in the 90's only 1 fish returned to the Stanley basin. They called him Lonesome Larry, and froze his sperm for the fish that would (hopefully) return the next year.
Here is the link to the fish camera and at the bottom on that page is the link to the fish counts at all the dams on the columbia and snake.
or if you just want to see the fish counts here's the link:
Forecast for this years salmon run on the Columbia is good (as good as compared to other recent runs).
Hope this keeps you in the know - I am planning on fishing the fall upriver bright run which peaks around the first part of September in the Columbia between Bonneville & McNary Dams.
Leave no man behind...
'Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.'
I would like to hear a little more about that fall upriver bright run. There sure are alot of Chinook that head up the river in the fall. Lots of 5 year old and older fish too. Seems like they are all Columbia R. fish though.
How do you fish that big water? How big are the ones you catch?
As far as different species in Idaho go, I know that the Nez Perce tribe (maybe others too, I don't know) up on the clearwater has been trying to reestablish a coho run, which was functionally extinct for years, and they have actually been getting some adult returns starting in '97, and last year almost 3500 came over Lower grannite, not yet enough to fish for, but I think it's pretty cool. and like you said I don't think Idaho has ever had runs to speak of as far as pinks and chums go, I think it's just too far like you said. Although, I was looking at the spreadsheet and in 2003 1 pink came over Lower Granite. I guess he was lonely too.
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