Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Steelhead Report for October 29

Here is the Steelhead report as prepared by IDFG's Brent Beller from the Salmon Region office:

Fishing improved again this weekend on the upper Salmon River. Fishing effort in every section was up, and the number of steelhead caught was up as well. Section 14 had the best observed catch rate of the weekend at 9 hours per fish caught. Sections 15 and 16 were both at 12 hours per fish, while section 17 was at 20 hours per fish. Effort increased considerably in sections 14, 15, and 17, but it stayed roughly the same in section 16. Overall this was the best weekend of fishing that has been observed on the upper Salmon River this fall.

It is also worth noting that the river cleared up last week, and it stayed that way throughout the weekend. The possibility does still exist, though, that the river could cloud up again following a rainstorm so it would be advisable to pay attention to the most up to date weather reports for the area. As of today (29th), the river is still quite clear and is at a water level that is slightly above average for this time of year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 22 Steelhead Report

Steelhead fishing pressure picked up last week.  IDFG conducted creel checks on 273 anglers.  As usual for this time of year, sixty percent of the fishermen were located between the Middle Fork confluence and North Fork.  A total of 50 of the elusive steelhead were caught but only 22 kept.  Fishermen surveyed logged 997.5 hours fishing.  Of that total, the bulk of time (888 hours) was spent between the Middle Fork and downtown Salmon, Idaho.

Here is what IDFG Fisheries Technician Brent Beller had to say in his weekly report released Monday:

"Fishing this weekend on the upper Salmon River improved over the previous one. The best hours per fish caught were still found in section 14 and were at 15 hours per fish. Sections 15 and 16 both showed a decrease in the hours per fish caught and angler effort in both sections increased as well. Section 15 was at 22 hours per fish caught for the weekend, while section 16 was at 19 hours per fish. Section 17 again had minimal effort for the weekend, but interviews were obtained. No fish were observed caught in section 17 by creel personnel, but most likely some steelhead harvest has occurred upstream of Salmon. It is also worth noting that the Salmon river was cloudy most of the weekend due to ash runoff from the Halstead fire near Stanley. As of today (22nd), the river is looking much better. Any more rain may push additional ash into the river again, but hopefully it will not have as big of an effect on it as it did this weekend."

Click on the graphic below to see a larger, more readable version.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mid-October Steelhead Report

The IDFG Salmon Region's Brent Beller released his second steelhead report on October 15.  Here's what he had to say:

"Creel data from this weekend on the upper Salmon River showed that steelhead fishing slowed down slightly compared to the previous weekend. The best hours per fish caught were found in section 14 and were at 19 hours per fish, while section 15 increased to 34 hours per fish and section 16 held steady at 37 hours per fish. Minimal activity was observed in section 17, and no interviews were able to be obtained. Catch rates in all sections were observed dropping during the middle of last week and that trend continued throughout the weekend. Most likely this was due to increasing water temperatures. Last weekend (10/7 & 10/8), the Salmon River was around the mid-40s (Fahrenheit), while this weekend it was closer to the low 50s. Hopefully with some colder overnight lows in the forecast we will see the catch rates start improving as the water temperature decreases again."

It looks like there are a few steelhead being caught.  Here's the data chart.  Click on it to see a larger, more readable version:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

First Fall Steelhead Weekly Report

The fall steelhead season began in early October from Salmon, Idaho, down river to Corn Creek.  IDFG Salmon Region Fisheries Technician Brent Beller released his first weekly report of the 2012 fall season Monday, October 8th.    Beller's reports will continue until December 3rd. As of  this past weekend, 121 anglers creels were checked.  Altogether 19 steelhead were caught, eight of which were kept.  Anglers checked reported spending a grand aggregate total of 472 hours fishing. That equates to over 24 hours per fish caught.

Here in italics is what he had to say for the first fall steelhead report:

"Idaho Department of Fish and Game technicians began creel activities for the upper Salmon River steelhead fishery on October 4th. Since then, we have observed steelhead caught from Salmon downstream to Corn Cr. None of the river sections were very busy this weekend and many holes were left open. The majority of anglers were found in section 15 between the North Fork and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Section 15 also had the best hours per fish caught at 13 hours. Section 16 was a ways behind at 37 hours. With more steelhead moving into the sections every day, though, we expect the catch rates to only improve as we move into mid-October. Along with better catch rates, more anglers are also expected. Section 17 received very limited effort this past weekend and no data was collected. We will begin regular creel activities in section 17 this week, and that data will be included in the weekend report next Monday.

Two other things that are worth getting the word out on are the river level and the condition of the river corridor downstream of North Fork. First, the water level of the Salmon River is quite low for this time of year. As of today, it is 78% of normal just downstream of Cove Cr. I would suggest using smaller weights than last year because the current in most holes is much weaker than a year ago when it was above average. The second issue I wanted to discuss was the Mustang Fire. While the vast majority of the north side of the river corridor in section 15 did burn this summer, it was primarily an understory burn on the slopes near the river. Very few trees were lost on those slopes and in some places it is already difficult to see where the fire burned through. It is my hope that anglers will not be deterred from fishing in section 15 because, in most places, it is just as scenic as ever. Hope everyone has a great week."

(Click on the graphic below to see a much more readable version.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Salmon Whitewater Park planning moves forward

(Updated October 4--see paragraphs in bold below.)  The Salmon City Council voted 4-1 September 12th to approve a Development Agreement with the Salmon Whitewater Park Association. Official approval of the agreement marked a major milestone in ongoing efforts to create a whitewater park in downtown Salmon, Idaho.

The Development Agreement will govern Phase 1 of the Salmon Whitewater Park--the pre-
construction Engineering and Permitting Phase, including Designs, Specifications, and other engineering and procurement documents, as may be required to complete an “issued for construction” package. The City will not be responsible for any funding for the Salmon Whitewater Park project.

Salmon Whitewater Park Association Project Manager Breann Westfall said, “We are grateful to the City for their support. This is one small, but very important, step in the overall process. The approval of this agreement allows us to move forward towards obtaining final engineer plannings and submitting our permit applications,”

Above is the Salmon Whitewater Park concept design.
Click the small thumbnail to see a larger, readable version.
The next step in the overall process will be finalizing a Request For Proposals (RFP) to be used to select a firm to prepare the final engineering plans. A draft RFP was developed last winter and spring by the Salmon Valley Stewardship. Salmon City Administrator George Ambrose assisted in developing the RFP. The draft RFP is expected to be reviewed by Salmon City administrators toward the end of October. The Salmon City Council must approve the RFP prior to solicitation of engineering firms.

After the RFP has been reviewed and approved, SWPA will advertise the RFP before the end of the year in Boise, Missoula, and Idaho Falls newspapers. Contacts will also made with engineering firms that have previous whitewater park design experience. SWPA has funds on hand to pay for the advertising and so far has raised about $21,000 toward the estimated overall cost of about $40,000 for the final engineering planning expenses.

“Hopefully by next spring, we’ll have the full funding in place to pay for the Final Engineering Plans and also have the engineering firm selected,” explained Breann Westfall, SWPA Project Manager.

After final engineering plans are completed, the SWPA can begin the permitting process. Regulatory permits will be required from several state and federal agencies before any construction could take place. Currently, SWPA’s efforts will be focused on finalizing the RFP and then seeking additional funds necessary to pay for remaining engineering costs. As the busy summer season winds down, Salmon Whitewater Park Association volunteers will have more time during the upcoming winter to explore various funding options.

SWPA envisions a possible 2014 completion time frame for the the Phase 1 engineering and permitting process.

SWPA Board members and supporters met October 2 to discuss the Development Agreement approval and the RFP process.  During the October 2nd meeting, the SWPA Board scheduled a 6 pm November 2nd community fundraiser at the Odd Fellows' Hall to celebrate the signing of the Development Agreement. "There will a whitewater park update and food and beverages," SWPA Project Manager Breann Westfall said, " We'll get posters out next week and get things more organized. It's going to be an informal celebration but we hope to get as many people there as possible."

SWPA will meet October 9th to continue the Phase 1 planning process. Regular SWPA monthly meetings are scheduled at 5:15 pm for the first Tuesday of each month at the Odds Fellows’ Hall on Main Street. The public is always welcome. 

The Development Agreement includes a clause noting “The parties agree to negotiate the terms of any future phases of the Salmon Whitewater Park in good faith...(and)...Upon written mutual agreement of the parties this Agreement may be amended to include future phases of the Salmon Whitewater Park, such as construction and maintenance phases.” The Development Agreement has an initial term of three years with an option to renew for up to three one year periods.

The Development Agreement states that SWPA’s will develop the RFP for Final Engineering Plans; engage and pay for the Final Engineering Plans; assign members of its committee to be on a panel to select a qualified engineering firm to complete the Final Engineering Plans and continue to work with its contractors to complete background environmental and hydrological data for the preparation of required permits. The data will be shared with the City. The agreement also notes that SWPA will maintain records of donations, record volunteer labor hours and without further request from the City will provide copies of those records every six months during the agreement period. 

As for the City of Salmon’s part, the Development Agreement says The City will assign members of its staff and/or elected officials to be on a panel to review the draft RFP for Final Engineering Plans and to select a qualified engineering firm to complete Final Engineering Plans. The City will also provide detailed specifications regarding water works improvements, water rights, and other information as requested to the firms selected to complete the Final Engineering Plans and permitting requirements for the Salmon Whitewater Park.

The agreement makes very clear that the City will not be responsible for any funding for the Salmon Whitewater Park Project. Finally, the agreement stipulates that after review and acceptance of Phase 1 engineering deliverables, the City will own all rights to the master, design and engineering plans for the Salmon Whitewater Park.
The Boise Whitewater Park - Photo courtesy of Idaho River Sports.

The Salmon Whitewater Park design will incorporate three wave features ranging in size from intermediate to an advanced feature. None of the wave features span the entire river and all will ensure safe passage for river users and fish. The two whitewater parks opened this year in Idaho include one in Boise and another the  North Fork of the Payette River near Cascade. Both proved very popular and drew heavy usage throughout the 2012 summer boating season.

More information can be found at the SWPA's website: 
The website has an excellent FAQ about the project located here:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Water Year in Review

Most folks live by what's called "the calendar year."  It begins with a big celebration on January 1st.  Hydrologists and water managers live by what's called "the water year."  Today is their January 1st.  The water year begins again each October 1st.

The water year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends.  Therefore, yesterday was the end of Water Year 2012. Today is the beginning of Water Year 2013. Use of water year as a standard follows the US national water supply data publishing system that was started in 1913. This time interval is often used by hydrologists because hydrological systems in the northern hemisphere are typically at their lowest levels near October 1. The increased temperatures and generally drier weather patterns of summer give way to cooler temperatures, which decreases evaporation rates. Rain and snow replenish surface water supplies.

The graphics below will provide a starting perspective about the most this and past water years. (Comments below each graphic.)

 The graph above tells a tale.  You can see the water year began last year almost exactly where it is this year.  Obviously, some precipitation took place and double the flow.  After the affects of this mini-surge subsided, the river continued its slow decline to the winter low flow levels.

Typically, The Salmon River at Yankee Fork will begin to wake up in March.  This year was no exception.  The first high spike was boosted by some rainfall on the snowpack and created the peak flow for this year year in late April. A secondary peak is normal under such conditions.  This year was somewhat of an anomaly in that there were two nearly identical secondary peaks with the last taking place in early June.

After the bulk of the snowpack has melted, the river will typically begin an orderly decline into the salmon spawning season.  The salmon are dialed in to knowing when the water levels will be most favorable for making their redds.  You can note a very slight increase in the flow level over the last couple of weeks.

Although the long-term daily mean data for the period of record (1922-2011), it may be a reasonable guess that Water Year 2012 finished at a slightly higher level than the long-term norm.  We hope the USGS can soon clarify that for us.  Now then, let's take a look at the two tables below.

 For whatever reason, there is no USGS data available from 1991-2001.  That's an abnormally large gap in long-term data!  However, we do have about 20 years worth of data here for the "daily mean flow in cfs" for the Salmon at Yankee Fork.  In simple terms, these number attempt to quantify a theoretical number that would take the whole water year flow and average it out as a daily flow.  It's an easy way to see if one water  year was more or less productive than any other given water year.

We are hoping we obtain the "total discharge in acre-feet" for the water years of record.  That's yet another of many years to compare and contrast water years.  Obviously, the provisional data for Water Year 2012 hasn't been posted yet.

You can see from the above table that Water Year 2011 had the highest daily mean for the past ten years.  It will be very interesting to see if Water Year 2012 exceeded the 2011 figure. It's highly unlikely because last year was such a "big water year." However, we heard lots of Old Timers grousing all summer about how "the high water" was affecting fishing, so it will be interesting to see the difference between 2011-2012

Now this is definitely an interesting water year graph.  As with the Yankee Fork, the USGS gauge at Salmon, Idaho started the water year off with a nice dose of precipitation and nearly doubled in flow.  It tapened down into December and appears to have bumped up once again going into the beginning of the calendar year.  As usual, the flow fell back to base of about 1,000 cfs in the depths of frozen winter.  The melt awakened a little early but did not begin in earnest until the usual March time frame.  The Salmon's spikes at Salmon mirrored those of the Yankee Fork, as did the orderly decine into salmon spawning season.  The interesting aspect of this water year graph shows the river flow making what appears to be a new annual low just last month.  (Without the missing data, we can't be 100% certain.)  Secondly, the flow actually rallied from the early September lows despite the lack of precipitation in the watershed.

Our guess from this graph is that irrigators took more then normal water during the hot late summer phase and then reduced their demand as the recent temperatures have cooled off.  In any event, the river flow at Salmon finished the water year about where it always does, roughly around 1,000 cfs.

Note that the USGS does not provide water year graphs for gauge height.

The data from the Salmon gauge is more complete that the Yankee Fork gauge so we have daily mean values for each water year dating back to 1913.  Note that last water year's daily mean was the highest since 1997!  We doubt that this most recent water year's value will come close to the 2011 figure as the cfs values ran below median all summer long, contrary to the Yankee Fork data site.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Water Year!  jp

The graphic below was received from the USGS on October 9th. You can click on the graphic itself to see a larger, more readable version.  We will post further analysis of the data here soon.