I'm not sure we will ever allow fishing for sockeye in Redfish Lake - but I'll bet we have a sockeye season in the Salmon River within the next decade. With our new Springfield hatchery coming on line with a goal of releasing ~1 millon smolts for migration to the ocean, we are confident we can re-establish sockeye in the Salmon River Basin and have excess fish for anglers to pursue in the Salmon River.
Because Snake River system sockeye were listed under the Endangered Species Act, we will need to satisfy National Marine Fishery Service that we can protect wild, returning sockeye while we fish on hatchery sockeye. They will give us a "take" number (incidental mortality on wild fish). We have not started discussions on what that number will be.
We have stopped stocking Redfish Lake to reduce incidental take on sockeye and competition with juvenile sockeye that spend some of their life in the lake.
It's not always NOAA who determines if a fish caught in a fishery is listed under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA does assess the potenital impacts of proposed fisheries and determines what levels of takes in fisheries are allowable (do not cause further harm to the listed fish). Once an unmarked fish has been caught, it's typically up to the states and tribes and their sampling programs to determine if the fish was wild or hatchery. In Idaho (and the entire Snake River basin) all hatchery salmon and steelhead that are released are genetically marked, a program called Parental Based Tagging. The genetic identity of all the parent fish that produce the offspring each year is known so when those offspring return from the ocean as adult fish biologists can analyze a genetic sample from a fish and determine if the parents were a hatchery fish or a wild (typically listed) fish. It's very similar to human genetics testing. Idaho Fish and Game is using these genetic techniques to analyze steelhead caught in fisheries from the mouth of The Columbia River upstream to lower Granite Dam and steelhead and salmon caught in all Idaho sport fisheries. Native Americans are allowed to possess ESA-listed fish because their fisheries typically are non-selective, meaning the harvest techniques used are lethal to the fish thus they cannot sort through the catch and release some fish. However, their fisheries can only occur within the allowable impacts determined by NOAA - that is they can not exceed a certain level of impacts. Sport fisheries also result in some mortality of listed fish; not all fish that are released survival after release and there also are ESA limits on allowable mortality for sport fisheries.
If you are referring to fall Chinook, you will see a record run of fall Chinook in Idaho in 2014. Fall Chinook have recently arrived at Bonneville Dam in record numbers - but they are about two weeks later than expected. That same surge of fish are moving up the Columbia River and many are headed for the Snake and Clearwater River systems.
We are making headway with other runs of anadromous salmon. Improvements in bypass and collection facilities are resulting in higher survival of juvenile fish to the ocean and subsequent returns of adults. Yes, there is still room for improvement. We will continue working with all entities to have the best passage conditions possible for Idaho's salmon and steelhead runs.
The distribution of fall Chinook salmon in Idaho is very different than that of spring/summer Chinook and steelhead. Fall Chinook are found only in the Snake River downstream of Hells Canyon Dam and the lower portions of the Clearwater River. A few do venture a short distance up the Salmon River but that number is really insignificant compared to the numbers in the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Yes, there is limited opportunity for non-boaters to fish for fall Chinook. Most of the fish return to the unroaded section of the Snake River and almost all of the non-boat fishing occurs just downstream of Hells Canyon Dam. Both Idaho and Oregon shore-anglers have been successful catching fall Chinook at Hells Canyon Dam. In 2013 Idaho extended the fall Chinook season into November for the section of the Snake River just downstream of Hells Canyon Dam. The primary purpose of that was to extend the fishing season for shore anglers in that area. In addition to the distribution of fall Chinook being different from spring/summer Chinook, their behavior also is different. Bank angling techniques in Idaho for fall Chinook haven't been as successful as for spring/summer Chinook because of the large rivers fall Chinook are found in and how they migrate through those rivers. Idaho Fish and Game will try to provide more options for fall Chinook fishing but there are limited opportunities to expand fishing just because of where the fish are and their behavior.
Hi everybody, Iâ€™ve been getting bombarded with questions regarding this yearâ€™s Steelhead runs so I figured it is about time I give you all an update. Iâ€™ve been holding off until I had enough information to give you something meaningful. So here you go.
For steelhead there are typically two different runs of fish destined for Idaho that people are interested in. One is the earlier arriving Steelhead that are typically dominated by one-ocean fish and are mainly destined for the Salmon River, the Grand Ronde River, and Hells Canyon Dam. This run of steelhead is commonly referred to as the â€œAâ€� run. The other is the later arriving fish that is typically dominated by larger two-ocean fish and are predominately destined for the Clearwater River basin. This run of steelhead is commonly referred to as the â€œBâ€� run.
By this time of year, typically over 90% of the A run destined for Idaho has passed over Bonneville Dam so we pretty much know what we are going to get. When we look at the number of PIT tagged steelhead destined for Idaho we estimate around 70,000 A run steelhead will pass over Lower Granite Dam. This number will vary some based on what survival is between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam. If you are wondering, this is very similar to what we saw the last two years (see graph below).
For the B run of steelhead destined for Idaho, typically by this time anywhere from 45 to 60 percent of the run has passed over Bonneville Dam. As such, there is some uncertainty on what is yet to come. However, if the trend holds, it looks like we could get about twice as many fish this year as we saw last year. Again this is dependent on how the run holds out at the survival we see between Bonneville Dam and Lower Granite Dam. The graph below shows how this yearâ€™s projected B run compares to previous years. Many have asked me whether we would be implementing restrictive regulations for steelhead on the Clearwater River this year. I can tell you that if the run holds true to our projection, no changes to the rules will be necessary.
To date 22,000 steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam (since June 1), and over the previous three days at least 1,300 steelhead a day have been passing over the dam. Fishing has been fairly slow (> 20 hrs/fish) in the Snake River and Clearwater River downstream of Memorial Bridge where fish can be harvested. But expect these catch rates to improve as more fish move into Idaho. Steelhead fishing in the catch-and-release area of the Clearwater River (upstream of Memorial Bridge) has been fairly good with catch rates around 5 to 6 hours a fish. One interesting this about this yearâ€™s A run is that over half the fish that have passed over Lower Granite Dam are two-ocean fish (9-13 lbs). So, although the catch rates havenâ€™t been all that great, people have been pleased with the size of the fish they are catching. Now that the B run is just starting to reach Idaho, the size of the fish should just get bigger.
Very good question and one our agency has explored in the past.
The sockeye that return to the Stanley Basinrun the longest distance inland of any sockeye population in the world. Back in the early 1980's, IDFG staff went to Babine Lake in northern British Columbia, Canada and took eggs from sockeye at that location. The fish were then reared and released in the Stanley Basin to begin their migration to the ocean. This was done for two consecutive years. Not a single adult sockeye returned to the Stanley Basin lakes from this experiment.
We surmise that something in the genetic makeup of these fish just didn't allow them to make the over 900 mile freshwater journey back to Idaho. We're not sure if they didn't have the capability to detect the tiny fraction of water from their release stream in the Columbia River or they just weren't capable of storing the fat reserves to give them energy to survive the long swim - bottom line was, they just never made it back to Idaho.
Idaho Statesman Outdoor Editor Roger Phillips recently published an interesting article relevant to your questions. Here's the article:
Outdoors Q&A: A long-winded answer to what were Idaho's 'native' wolves
By Roger Phillips
August 14, 2014
Q: I recently read an article about the native Idaho wolf. I had previously never heard of this wolf species, which is said to be 40 to 60 pounds smaller than the wolf we reintroduced into Idaho. Is there such a wolf, and is it endangered?
IRENE ANDERSON, Meridian
A: Get comfy, Irene, this may take a while.
The short version is there's no definitive answer to what Idaho's "native" wolf is for many reasons, but I will make an educated guess that the wolves we have now are similar to what we used to have.
Some people claim Idaho's "native" wolf was the "plains" wolf, which is a slightly smaller subspecies of the gray wolf, and those transplanted from Canada were larger "timber" wolves.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gray wolves once ranged from coast-to-coast and from Alaska to Mexico, and they were one of the most wide-ranging animals on the continent.
There were, and are, numerous subspecies, of which the "plains" wolf is one. Despite its name, it's also found in the Great Lakes.
If you could track down the DNA of an Idaho wolf from hundreds of years ago, it would likely show you it's a gray wolf, but not a particular subspecies.
If you look at the evidence, it points to Idaho's previous wolves being similar to those in Canada based on Idaho's geography, terrain and climate.
The ancestors of Idaho's current gray wolf population came from south central Alberta and British Columbia in 1995-96.
The fact that they're from Canada does not make them a subspecies, as some people claim.
The weight range of the transplanted wolves was 72 to 126 pounds, according to Idaho Fish and Game records.
F&G's recent harvest statistics show Idaho wolves killed by hunters average about 90 pounds for females and about 100 pounds for males.
That may skew a little small because young wolves are more likely to get shot than older wolves. The largest wolf killed in Idaho since reintroduction was about 135 pounds.
As to whether the wolves imported from Canada are a different subspecies, evidence based on geography and other species doesn't support it.
From North Idaho, there's only a few hundred miles from where the transplanted wolves originated, and the farthest distance from the current population's original home would probably be fewer than 1,000 miles.
According to Mark Drew, veterinarian at Fish and Game's Wildlife Health Laboratory, a thousand miles is not enough distance to trigger what's known as Bergmann's rule. That's a widely accepted zoological principle that individual animals of a certain species tend to be larger at higher latitudes and colder climates than those closer to the equator and in warmer climates.
White-tailed deer are a classic example. Whitetails in southern states are diminutive compared to whitetails in northern states and Canadian provinces.
Also, if you subtract the weight you mentioned (40 to 60 pounds lighter) from the average size of today's wolves, you'd have a wolf about the size of a coyote, which isn't likely.
But you could make an argument that wolves inhabiting Idaho a century or more ago were different than what we have now simply because Idaho was different.
Wolves, like all animals, are a product of their environment and highly adaptable. Their size relates to their habitat and prey.
Jon Rachael, F&G's state big game manager, said current wolf weights vary throughout the state. Packs adjacent to each other may have larger or smaller individuals, simply because one pack is healthier than the other.
But to more directly answer your question about what was Idaho's "native" wolf, Rachael forwarded me a copy of "An account of the Taxonomy of North American Wolves from a Morphological and Genetic Analysis."
It's a scientific paper that discusses many subspecies of wolves across North America, and here's your scientific smoking gun:
"Recognition of the northern timber wolf Canis lupus occidentalis and the plains wolf Canis lupus nubilus as subspecies is supported by morphological data and extensive studies of microsatellite DNA variation where both subspecies are in contact in Canada.
"There is scientific support for the taxa recognized here, but delineation of exact geographic boundaries presents challenges. Rather than sharp boundaries between taxa, boundaries should generally be thought of as intergrade zones of variable width."
If you understood all of that, you're probably smarter than I.
But here's my take: Because Idaho has both mountains and desert, it likely falls into the category of an "intergrade zone." It's possible a desert subspecies existed that was smaller than their northern cousins. But considering most of the state is mountainous and cold, most of Idaho's previous "native" wolves were probably similar to what we have now.
Most of the elk reside in the southern portion of the Unit, from Grouse Peak to the southern boundary of the unit. This area is mostly public land, topographically diverse and high elevation. You are likely to find elk in any drainage, particularly those with perennial creeks.There is good motorized access to much of this area with the opportunity to hike into remote areas as well. Consult the Forest Service and BLM travel plan maps.
Along the north end of the unit adjacent the Salmon River,elk can be found in the dry foothills during the day. They move to fields along the Salmon River at night. Access is more restrictive here and landowner contacts would be helpful in this area.
The Pahsimeroi River lies within the eastern boundary of the unit. The riparian zone is quite extensive and elk arecommon. Access to private property is requiredhere to hunt the private lands.
Steelhead do run to thePahsimerio/Challis/Salmon area in the late fall. Typically, we start to receive reports of steelhead being caught in the upper Salmon in late October/early November. Most people fish the lower Salmon River in the fall (October in Riggins is my favorite fishing time) and the upper Salmon in the spring.
River conditions do play a large part on when they arrive in the upper Salmon country. If the water cools in the Snake River early in the year, then the fish will move up the Snake and Salmon and arrive in October. If the water remains warm into September, the fish will not enter the Snake River and their migration is delayed.