Letters From the West

Tribe sought earlier closing of Idaho jack salmon season

 Fishermen squeeze into the few available areas along the Little Salmon River. Pete Zimowsky —pzimowsky@idahostatesman.com

Fishermen squeeze into the few available areas along the Little Salmon River.
Pete Zimowsky —pzimowsky@idahostatesman.com

Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission ended its spring Chinook salmon fishing on the Clearwater last week but kept open fishing for jacks or yearing males through the holiday weekend.

That brought a protest from the Nez Perce Tribe, which has a right to 50 percent of the harvest under the treaty rights it retained when it turned over millions of acres to the U.S. government. Tribal biologists worry that anglers fishing for the 2,000 jacks allowed will catch and release many potential spawners and that about 10 percent of them will die.

“Given the low runs size this year there is little margin of error in achieving broodstock,” said Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe.

The tribe wanted the state to take a conservative approach because it worries it will be short in its hatcheries. That mean fewer smolts to release in the future.

Harvest issues have been among the most sensitive over the years between Idaho and tribal fishing authorities. At times Idaho has complained tribal fishermen take too many steelhead incidently during fall Chinook season on the Columbia.

The tribe, whose hatcheries are now a major source of salmon for the Salmon and Clearwater fisheries, is making the same point here. These squabbles only happen in times of shortage, which means often.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West