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Steelhead Numbers Down,
But Don't Panic

by Roger Phillips
Idaho Statesman, August 23, 2012

Steelhead swim up to 900 miles from the ocean to the headwaters. I got two emails from steelhead fishing buddies concerned about this year's run. The numbers don't look good, but they're not catastrophic, either.

This year's run will probably be below average for the last decade, and hot weather isn't doing it any favors because it's slowing the upstream migration.

Frankly, it looks pretty bad compared with the last few years, but those were extraordinary runs, and big swings are common with anadromous fish.

Here's a quick breakdown:

I'm focusing on August numbers at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River so we can get a snapshot of the run. August is typically the biggest single month for steelhead crossing at Bonneville, followed by July and September.

So far in August, 67,354 steelhead have crossed Bonneville, and daily counts have ranged between 1,700 and 5,350 (numbers rounded). We still have 10 more daily counts to add.

Last August, 172,000 crossed and dailies ranged between 5,000 and 9,000.

In August 2010: 139,000 crossed and dailies were between 1,100 and 9,000 fish.

August 2009 was off the charts: 353,500 fish crossed and dailies ranged from 1,400 to 35,000. That skewed the 10-year averages.

In 2008, August produced 102,636 at Bonneville and dailies between 1,600 and 4,800.

So we could be tracking similar to 2008, and I don't remember it being a terrible steelhead season.

One thing about steelhead, they always keep you guessing.

Roger Phillips
Steelhead Numbers Down, But Don't Panic
Idaho Statesman, August 23, 2012

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