Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Salmon Surprise

PITs in the Pits.  Salmon season smoked. Salmon numbers looking grim. Salmon run out of luck.  All of these sentences were considered for a title to this post.  "The "Salmon Surprise" sums them all up.  Some Salmon River insiders starting worrying about this a couple of weeks ago.  Now the rumors are flying and the reality is beginning to set in.  It's become more and more likely that far fewer salmon will be heading to the Upper Salmon River than once thought only a short time ago.

When the run started, numbers at Bonneville Dam looked great.  In fact, the run numbers at Bonneville are still slightly above the ten-year-average.  As of today, about 93-percent of the season's run tally is complete at Bonneville.  Now the spotlight turns to Lower Granite Dam.  That's the last hurdle for fish entering the Snake River system.  The use of Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT) has really helped fisheries biologists get a much better understanding of how any given salmon run unfolds.

It's a numbers game that's been proven statistically quite valid.  In a nutshell, a certain percentage of any given year's salmon run should head back to their home spawning streams in direct correlation to the number of salmon implanted with the PIT tags.  PIT tags are the currency of the stock and trade of andronymous fish management.

When the salmon run numbers starting looking pretty good at Bonneville, optimism reigned here on The Upper Salmon River.  Now that the actual PIT numbers are being logged at Lower Granite, the mood has taken a 180 degree turn.  No one speaking publicly at this time but people in the know are speaking in hushed tones with somber voices.  In a nutshell, the prognosis of the day seems to say a good salmon run won't materialize on The Upper Salmon River.

If this is proven true and makes the mainstream media soon, it's going to be a piece of bombshell news to retailers, restaurants, outfitters, the hospitality and all of the bread and butter businesses that welcome a robust salmon fishing season.  Granted, all those businesses learned to survive when there weren't salmon fishing seasons.  However, the recent successes of salmon runs have once again shown the economic value of a viable salmon fishing season on The Upper Salmon River.

The IDFG Commission is supposedly gong to consider whether to set a salmon season locally at its June 4th meeting this coming Monday.  They will undoubtedly rely heavily on the PIT numbers as interpreted by the Department Staff.  Rumors we heard today are not a pretty sight.  It's entirely possible this year's the number have already smoked a salmon season this year.

Now take this post with a grain of salt on your smoked salmon today.  We could be wrong.  We could have heard the wrong rumors.  However, we doubt it.  We've been looking at the same numbers from the Fish Passage Center that the fish biologists see.  We even talked today to a very well respected fish biologist to ask if we were reading those numbers correctly. "You're seeing it the way we see it," he said.

Tomorrow, we will post up all the links and screen shots and so forth so you, too can check the numbers.  We simply wanted to get this news out and circulating as soon as possible.  It's important stuff.

Have a great evening & Many Cheers, jp

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