Chinook salmon in the Middle Fork of the Salmon River
Updated September 25, 2015
The Middle Fork basin contains some of the best Chinook salmon habitat in the entire Columbia River basin. The Middle Fork Chinook salmon population has not been genetically altered by hatchery fish, a rarity in the continental United States for these fish. Sometime in late summer-early fall, they prepare their nests (redds) in the gravel at the bottom of the river, where they bury their eggs. The majority of these redds are created in the tributaries to the Middle Fork, but many are also built in the mainstem, and boaters and fishermen should avoid disturbing these nests.
2015 Chinook Redds in the mainstem of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River (Boundary Creek to Cache Bar)
2015 Chinook Redds in Marsh Creek and upstream of Boundary Creek
Boaters are asked to avoid disturbing these spawning sites throughout the fall and the next spring. When active spawning is occurring, move as far away as safely possible when red flagging is observed, which will usually indicate a redd within the next 100 feet. Please read this document for specific instructions for boaters floating during the active spawning season (Aug. 15-Sept. 15) and additional information.
Flagging is pulled late in the fall; use the maps above to avoid redd damage while boating during the late fall and also during the spring, when the fry emerge from the redds.
Here's a picture of a redd at Ramshorn (the light spot in the middle of the photo).
In 1995, researchers began to document redds in the mainstem of the Middle Fork. Because the Chinook is listed as an endangered species, consultation was needed to identify ways to mitigate potential impacts for recreational boating. Click to see the cumulative map from 2009 through 2013.
This consultation resulted in a Biological Opinion which outlined several mitigation measures to help protect spawning Chinook salmon. To read the two related News Releases, click here.
Chinook salmon mitigation measures include:
- Cancelled reservations for launch dates will not be reissued after March 15th.
- Launches originating on Aug. 15 through Sept. 15 will be limited to 12 boats per permit.
- Grouping of parties and quiet zones as boaters float past identified redd locations.
- To reduce the threat of importing Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), education will be added to the mandatory boater orientation sessions. AIS information will also be included in the permit holder’s materials. See Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers to learn more about preventing the spread of AIS.
- Require all craft be dry and clean to protect the Middle Fork from invasive species; i.e., boats not transporting water or debris from other systems. Clean means no vegetation, mud, or debris clinging to boats or equipment. Dry means no standing water in boats or equipment and no wet equipment. It will be the responsibility of the permit holder to ensure that all craft and equipment floating under the permit comply with this requirement.
- Boats will be checked at the launch sites to ensure they are cleaned, drained and dry. For specifics, see the AIS Screening Protocol document.
- Information and Education for boaters about the spawning Chinook salmon and how to avoid disturbing spawning fish or damaging redds. Please read Sharing the River with the Chinook Salmon brochure.
- Campsite closures may be implemented if a redd is established in such a way that boaters would have to disturb spawning fish or the redd to land or launch at that camp.
To see redd locations from previous years, click on these maps: 2014 Middle Fork Salmon Redds 2013 Middle Fork Redd Map 2013 Marsh Creek Redds
Redd maps from fall 2012: Chinook redd locations on Marsh Creek and the Middle Fork 2012
Redd maps from fall 2011: