Steelhead Numbers at Lower Granite
by CBB Staff
The recent drop in the water temperatures in the Columbia and Snake rivers has signaled migrating steelhead that is time to continue to migrate to their home waters in Idaho and elsewhere across the Columbia/Snake basin.
From Sept. 9 to Sept. 14 the number of steelhead crossing Lower Granite Dam (the last of eight dams on their travels from the ocean to Idaho) nearly doubled for the season. The total over the dam was at 19,456 through Sept. 14. More than 2,000 of the ocean-going rainbow trout crossed on that day.
Based on the steelhead run in the Columbia River, the forecast for hatchery A-run fish remains on track with about 103,000 through the season. Hatchery B-run steelhead have been slower to enter the Columbia this year, and managers say it is too early to update the forecast on that segment of the run. Early predictions were for about 22,000 hatchery B-run fish to cross Lower Granite Dam.
Surveys of anglers on the Snake and Salmon rivers show steelhead fishing has been slow prior to this past weekend, primarily because water temperatures in the low 70s have kept fish lethargic, or have kept them from moving into Idaho waters. The few anglers checked on the Salmon River near North Fork were unable to catch any steelhead. A structured steelhead survey will begin in the Lewiston area on one of the next two weekends.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game recently completed a harvest survey of steelhead anglers who fished during the fall 2002 and spring 2003 seasons. More than 10,000 anglers were contacted by mail or phone to determine if they fished for steelhead, how many steelhead they caught and where they caught them, and how many days they fished. Anglers fished an estimated 311,000 days to harvest nearly 83,000 hatchery steelhead during the 2002-2003 run year.
Steelhead entering Idaho in the fall are part of the same population of fish caught the following spring. The harvest of the 2002-2003 run is the second largest harvest of steelhead since 1964, when the department started surveying steelhead anglers for this information.
This season follows the best harvest ever of 103,000 in the 2001-2002 season, when 259,000 steelhead crossed Lower Granite Dam. The 10-year average harvest was about 41,000 fish. Nearly 62,000 anglers purchased steelhead permits in the fall, and about 46,000 did so in the spring.
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