If you are out recreating on the Middle Fork, you might see people in wetsuits and snorkel masks float past you.

Don’t be alarmed, officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game say. It is likely Idaho Fish and Game personnel conducting annual snorkel surveys of fish populations.

Salmon and steelhead populations on the Middle Fork are listed as threatened or endangered, which has resulted in Fish and Game increasing its efforts to better understand and monitor salmon and steelhead populations in the river.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system. It flows 104 miles through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to its confluence with the main Salmon River. The Middle Fork is ecologically valuable and boasts populations of wild steelhead and Chinook salmon that embark on a 900-mile journey to return to their natal spawning grounds in headwater tributaries of the Middle Fork, Fish and Game personnel say.

In 1971, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game established sections of the Middle Fork to be surveyed annually to monitor trends in fish populations. Originally six sections, called transects, were established on the main stem of the Middle Fork. In the early 1980s, 28 additional main stem transects were added to better monitor changes in the densities of juvenile steelhead, Chinook salmon and westslope cutthroat trout populations. The presence or absence of other fish species including mountain whitefish, largescale suckers, bridgelip suckers, northern pikeminnow and redside shiners is also documented by surveyors.

Besides the transects on the main stem Salmon, another 10 were created on Middle Fork tributaries deemed critical for spawning habitat and cold water refuge. 

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