Fish and Game says Steelhead are
by Roger Phillips
Editor's note: This question came from Idaho Fish and Game's weekly news release with additional information provided by F&G staff.
Q: Are steelhead still released below Oxbow Dam?
A: Yes. As part of the same agreement with Idaho Power that supports steelhead coming to the Boise River, Fish and Game cooperates with Oregon's Fish and Wildlife department to transport steelhead from the Hells Canyon trap to below Oxbow Dam downstream from Brownlee Reservoir.
About 300 steelhead were released there last week.
These steelhead are surplus hatchery fish from the Hells Canyon fish trap, which means enough fish return to replenish the hatchery, and adult fish can be released into other areas to provide more sport angling.
It's a wildly popular program on the Boise River, and Oxbow also provides a different steelhead fishing experience where steelhead are not normally found.
These hatchery steelhead are a fascinating study in fish management because of the strange route they take in their lives.
Idaho's wild and hatchery steelhead have interesting life cycles. Wild steelhead swim up to 900 miles to spawn in the Stanley Basin. They're marathon swimmers.
The hatchery steelhead you catch in the Boise River, Oxbow Reservoir, Hells Canyon, or even the Salmon and Little Salmon rivers, may have started life hundreds of miles away in the Magic Valley.
Here's the circuitous route some of Idaho's hatchery steelhead take:
Adults are trapped at the Hells Canyon fish trap below the dam and trucked upstream to the Oxbow Hatchery, where they are spawned.
The eggs are then trucked to the Magic Valley Hatchery in Twin Falls, where eggs are hatched and young fish raised to smolts in hatchery raceways.
Eggs are trucked to the Magic Valley because rearing capacity is not available at Oxbow, and Idaho Power funds both hatcheries to compensate for blocking and ending natural steelhead migration upstream from Hells Canyon Dam.
During spring, smolts raised in Twin Falls are trucked to Hells Canyon or the Little Salmon River and released.
The young fish swim downstream toward the Pacific and may complete their migration in the rivers, or be captured and loaded onto barges and shipped past the Snake and Columbia dams and released downstream.
Steelhead spend a year or two in the Pacific, then return to Hells Canyon in the fall, and some get trapped and trucked to Boise.
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