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Season Shows Promise

by Staff
Lewiston Tribune, October 14, 2004

Large, then smaller, now large again run in the forecast for steelhead season

Numbers have a way of changing when predicting things like the return of steelhead to the Snake River and its tributaries.

In July, when the first steelhead began to steam up the Columbia and Snake rivers, state and federal fish gurus predicted an above average run.

Then in September, when the fish were late arriving at Bonneville Dam, predictions were scaled back.

Now, on the eve of the Clearwater River catch-and-keep season, the prognosticators think their first stab may have been correct.

"Now it looks like we are more on track with the preseason prediction," says Ed Schriever, regional fisheries manager of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

That means there could be as many as 130,000 to 140,000 steelhead returning to the Snake River. Already this year more than 120,000 steelies have been counted crossing the Lower Granite Dam.

Water temperatures this early fall have led to a high number of fish making the transition from the Columbia River to the Snake River. When there is a temperature difference of about 5 degrees or more between the Snake and Columbia, the fish often are reluctant to move into the warmer Snake River and will hang out waiting for a weather change.

But that condition, known as a thermal block, has not developed this year and the Snake River fish have been rolling past the dams.

Last week, Schriever says 75 percent of the steelhead counted at McNary Dam on the Columbia River had entered the Snake River and crossed Ice Harbor Dam.

McNary Dam, near the Tri-Cities, is the last dam on the Columbia encountered by Snake River-bound fish and Ice Harbor Dam is the first on the Snake River.

Many of this year's A-run variety of steelhead -- those that return mostly to the Snake, Salmon and Grand Ronde rivers -- appear to have spent just one year in the ocean, according to Schriever.

The ladder at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery was open last week and 166 steelhead entered the trap there, along with about 200 coho. The trap is open again this week and will open periodically until 500 early returning steelhead are trapped.

After that it will close until spring, when 2,500 steelhead will be trapped. Hatchery biologist Ralph Roseberg expects a solid, but not fantastic return of B-Run steelhead.

"I think it's going to be about the same as last year; not a record setting run but a pretty darn good one."

B-run steelhead return to the Clearwater and Salmon rivers. They spend two to three years in the ocean.

Season Shows Promise
Lewiston Tribune, October 14, 2004

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