Runs Look to Finish the Season Strongby Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, October 22, 2000
On the verge of the opening of the Clearwater steelhead season, the strength of both the A and B runs continues to be promising.
Biologists at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game say their concern that hot weather and high water temperatures could derail the runs has all but passed.
"I think our only period of nervousness was in mid-August when we saw passage through the Columbia and Snake slow down," said Sharon Kiefer, anadromous fish coordinator at Boise. "But as is obvious from the numbers, it picked up again."
Those numbers are good news for anglers. Through Tuesday just less than 80,000 steelhead had been counted at Lower Granite Dam. Tuesday was the first day in more than 30 with fewer than 1,000 steelhead passing Lower Granite Dam.
"We haven't started to see much of decline yet," said Kiefer. She expects about 100,000 steelhead to cross the dam before the season is over.
Of those, about 13,000 should be B-run steelhead with the majority of them headed for the Clearwater River. About 8,000 hatchery B-run steelhead have been counted at Lower Granite Dam this year.
"Certainly we aren't expecting any difficulty in achieving our minimum management goal of what it takes to meet hatchery escapement and what we need for fisheries."
The B-run steelhead are generally larger than A-run fish. Kiefer says that is because the majority of B-run steelhead spend two years in the ocean. A-run fish usually spend one year at sea.
There are exceptions to the rule. Some B-run fish spend just one year in salt water and some A-run fish stay out for two years. Both runs also have a small number of fish that spend three years at sea.
But Kiefer said it's likely the B-run is just a bigger strain of steelhead. That could be because the B-run enters fresh water later than the A-run. That means they spend more time feeding in the rich ocean environment.
Fish counters at the dam generally consider steelhead above 31 inches to come from the B run and those below that size to be A run. Keifer says there is some overlap.
Ralph Roseberg, a biologist at the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery at Ahsahka, where the hatchery B-run fish are produced, said the ladder there is open and a small number of fish have trickled in.
The hatchery opens the ladder early in the season with the goal of trapping 500 early returning steelhead. In the past, some anglers have grumbled about the trap being open early in the season. But Roseberg explained it's in their long-term interest.
"What we are trying to do is make sure those early returning fish are kept in the run," he said. "That is an inheritable trait."
Once the 500 target is reached the trap will be closed. It will be opened later this winter when the hatchery hopes to trap an additional 2,500 steelhead.
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