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Idaho Again Enlists Anglers To Help Catch South Fork
Clearwater River Steelhead For Broodstock

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, February 26, 2016

A fisherwoman proudly displays her steelhead catch. Idaho Fish and Game wants young steelhead released into the South Fork of the Clearwater River to be from parents taken from that river, so the department is asking anglers to catch local spawners to fill nearby hatcheries.

Here's how it works: Anglers catch a fish, and then place the live fish into a perforated section of PVC pipe provided by IDFG. They return the pipe to the river and tether it, and then IDFG crews retrieve the fish and put it into a tanker truck that will deliver the steelhead to the hatcheries.

IDFG distribute the PVC pipes at popular fishing holes along the South Fork during late February and March, the most popular times for fishing the river. Steelhead donated by anglers are not counted against the angler's bag limit.

The program started in 2010 in order to develop a "localized broodstock" unique to the South Fork of the Clearwater. With help from anglers, a portion of the broodstock has come directly from the South Fork, and last year a record 350 fish were collected, which produced about a million smolts for release.

This year, IDFG is hoping anglers can provide about 600 adults, which would meet the complete brood needs at Clearwater Fish Hatchery and Dworshak National Fish Hatchery for smolts released into the South Fork Clearwater. The South Fork has no fish trap or weir, so the department is relying solely on anglers to get the spawners.

"Anglers are a huge part of this," said Joe DuPont, fisheries manager for the Clearwater Region. "They are working with us for a common goal."

In years past, spawners were collected at the Dworshak Hatchery trap on North Fork Clearwater River. Research has shown that steelhead are highly adaptable, and young hatchery steelhead smolts tend to survive and return as adults at a higher rate when their parents come from the exact stream where the young fish are released.

If that proves true on the South Fork, using localized broodstock could mean more adult steelhead returning for anglers, even with the same number of smolts released.

Anglers have embraced the opportunity to help improve a popular steelhead fishery.

"The public loves it," DuPont said. "People are planning their trips around catching fish for the local broodstock program."

The Clearwater River system produces some of the Northwest's most prized steelhead. The "B" run fish average about 12 pounds and have been known to exceed 20 pounds. Spring is the most popular time to fish the South Fork as the large fish move through the relatively small river where there are dozens of miles of easily accessible bank fishing.

For more information about the program, call (208) 799-5010.

Idaho Again Enlists Anglers To Help Catch South Fork Clearwater River Steelhead For Broodstock
Columbia Basin Bulletin, February 26, 2016

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