by Eric Barker
This year's steelhead run has turned out to be a good one, with more than 135,000 fish over Lower Granite Dam.
But fishing of late hasn't been as good as the numbers suggest.
"Nobody has done real well in the 10 days since the season has opened," says Larry Barrett of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.
The fishing hasn't been terrible, but neither has it been fantastic. History would suggest the first few days of the catch-and-keep season on the Clearwater River are a lock for good fishing.
With the steelhead count at Lower Granite Dam nearly 34,000 fish better than the 10-year average, Barrett expected limits to be common.
"There are a lot of B-run steelhead over Granite. The flows are really good. The Clearwater ought to be better than it is," he says.
He speculates the growing popularity of the catch-and-release fishing season on the Clearwater River may be the reason catch numbers are not better than they are.
The heavy fishing could have thrown off the bite, according to Barrett. He also noted the Lower Granite pool has backed up into the Mill Hole in the lower Clearwater River, making it difficult to fish.
The hole is one of the most popular and productive fishing spots close to Lewiston.
Steelhead seem to be well distributed throughout the Salmon, Snake and Clearwater rivers. One bright spot has been the Salmon River above Riggins, where anglers have averaged 10 hours of fishing for each steelhead caught.
At Heller Bar on the Snake River, anglers averaged eight hours of fishing for each steelhead caught. Anything less than 10 hours a fish is generally considered good fishing.
Barrett noted catch rates for the Snake can be as low as three to four hours per fish this time of year.
People are catching steelhead from Lewiston to Kooskia on the Clearwater River. When hatchery workers at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery near Orofino have opened the ladder there, steelhead have poured into the trap.
The hatchery has trapped 434 steelhead there this fall, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Ralph Roseberg. Hatchery workers trap and hold about 500 early returning steelhead in the fall and another 2,500 in the spring.
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