The Salmon River snowpack is significantly above average the end of March. Reporting stations in the headwaters of the Middle Fork indicate about 150% of average snowpack for this date. This would suggest that there will be higher than average river flows this summer. Not a guarantee–a warm, dry spring could still change things. The last couple of winters generated above-average snowpacks, but dry springs produced below-average river flows in the summer. Still, with a snowpack so much above average this year, it is a pretty high probability that we will have higher river flows this summer. Access to the Middle Fork may be delayed with the road to Boundary Creek not melting open until later. We may be able to float from Boundary Creek, instead of flying in to Indian Creek, for a longer period. August 7 is more likely to be a Boundary Creek trip instead of a fly-in trip. Some of the recent mud-slide rapids may flush out a little.
On the Main Salmon, there won’t be a great deal of impact from higher flows. If the current snow pattern continues, the Main Salmon will not see quite as much impact as the Middle Fork. Throughout the winter, north Idaho has been behind on snowpack, while southern and eastern Idaho has been well over average snowpack. The Main Salmon seems to be approximately on the division line, with the majority of the Salmon River snowpack in the higher snowfall zone.
The Salmon River snowpack could have been much larger. The precipitation per cent was above average from the beginning of the water year (1 October), but the fall was so warm that the snowpack did not begin to accumulate until midwinter in the high country. At one point in early December, the upper Middle Fork was only 52% of average. Until mid-winter the low snow accumulation was above average, while the high snow was below average. After a warm fall, the winter was colder than usual, with a great deal of ice in the river. In January, there were many nights in the 20+ below 0 range in Salmon.
During the last couple of weeks the Salmon River in Salmon has been more than double the average flow. Each day breaks all-time high flows per date. Steelhead fishing has been a bust. The ice jam was more extensive than usual this winter. After ice stopped flowing down river, the boat launches were still blocked with ice and unusable until the beginning of March. BLM and F&G were finally able to open the ramps, and immediately the river became muddy from run-off. In the last few days the river has begun to clear, but the level is so high that fishing for steelhead has not been productive. The F&G has been reporting catch rates of 100, 200, or worse hours of fishing effort per steelhead caught. We usually hope to fish for steelhead in the Salmon area through the first week of April, but conditions aren’t promising.