Big Run Prompts Idahoby CBB Staff
Steelhead limits have been raised to allow anglers to take advantage of another excellent run. The action came at the Fish and Game Commission quarterly meeting in Pocatello, Oct. 4. For the fall season, anglers may keep three hatchery steelhead per day, have nine in possession and keep 40 for the season if they buy a second 20-fish permit.
"...the fall fishing season is shaping up to potentially be another great one," said Bill Horton, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's anadromous fisheries manager. "More than 100,000 steelhead have crossed Lower Granite Dam. Last year is the only other time since Lower Granite was built that so many steelhead have returned so early."
Through Tuesday, a total of 170,105 steelhead had been counted at Ice Harbor Dam, the first of four lower Snake River hydroelectric projects that the fish must negotiate before reaching Idaho. They had already passed four Columbia River projects.
The count at Lower Granite Dam, the final hydro hurdle, was 154,732 steelhead, including 42,095 wild fish, according to Corps of Engineers counts posted on the Fish Passage Center web page.
The overall run is the second largest run since counts began in 1938. A total of 469,233 steelhead, including 140,296 wild fish, had been tallied at Bonneville Dam through Tuesday. That project is the lowermost in the federal Columbia-Snake hydrosystem. A record 630,200 steelhead passed Bonneville last year.
The FPC noted that the Bonneville steelhead count through Oct. 3 was 75 percent of last year's count to that date but 181 percent of the 10-year average.
Horton cautioned that lots of fish can lead to situations that make steelheading less than the pleasant experience it can be.
"Please be courteous and safe while out there, and remember that you cannot keep just any big fish you catch. Only adipose-clipped steelhead are legal to keep." Wild Snake River basin steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Anglers are urged to read the 2002-2003 Fishing Rules (pages 57-59) for information. Some fall chinook and coho salmon may be caught while steelhead fishing. All salmon must be released immediately, unharmed, back into the water (even if they are missing the adipose fin). Page 63 of the fishing rules has photos to help anglers identify the differences in these fish.
Also, some steelhead will appear to the seasoned angler as obvious hatchery fish, but the fishing rules only allow for those steelhead that had their adipose fin removed when they were juveniles in the hatchery to be kept.
Fish Passage Center: www.fpc.org
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