IDFG to Stock Boise River with Snake River Steelhead;
Posted on Friday, November 22, 2013 (PST)
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game plans to stock about 200 steelhead in the Boise River today, Nov. 22.
The transfer of fish from the lower Snake River will be the only steelhead release this year in the Boise River, because the number of steelhead spawners returning is low and most of them are needed to meet hatchery brood stock goals.
The IDFG has said that 200 so-called "A-run" hatchery trout that have been captured as they return to the Idaho Power Company-owned and funded Oxbow Hatchery fish trap below Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River will be transported for release in the Boise River.
Idaho Power owns and operates the three dams that make up the Hells Canyon Complex along the Idaho-Washington border. The complex blocks passage to historic habitat upstream in the Snake basin, which includes the Boise River tributary to the system. So nowadays, fish returns in excess of what is needed for hatchery production are captured and transported past the dams to provide angler opportunities in the Boise River.
"In the past we've put as many as 1,200 fish in there," the IDFG's Sam Sharr said of the annual transfers over the past decade. But this year's return, as calculated at the lower Snake's Lower Granite Dam, has been only slightly more than half of the recent 10-year average, so fewer fish in excess of hatchery needs are available for transport.
The late-season forecast is for a return of 90,000 to 100,00 "A"-run steelhead and 15,000 "B"-run steelhead, as counted at Lower Granite. The dam is the eighth the fish pass on their way up the Columbia and Snake rivers toward tributary spawning habitat in Idaho's Clearwater River and elsewhere.
The recent 10-year average has been about 160,000 hatchery spawners, and 30,000 wild fish, at Lower Granite.
The wild fish are mostly naturally produced steelhead that, because of reduced historic productivity, are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Returns to the Snake River basin averaged about 70,000 from the 1960s through the 1990s.
Because of their size - six to 12 pounds - the actual number of steelhead stocked will depend on the capacity of the tanker truck hauling the fish from Oxbow Hatchery on the Snake River. Fish and Game will release the fish at five locations between the Glenwood Bridge and Barber Park.
Besides a fishing license, anglers hoping to tangle with one of the hatchery steelhead need a $12.75 steelhead permit. Though required in other steelhead waters, barbless hooks are not required for Boise River steelhead angling.
To increase angler opportunity on the limited number of fish available for release, the bag and possession limits on the Boise River have been reduced to one fish per day and three in possession. The fall season limit is 20 steelhead.
All steelhead stocked in the Boise River will lack an adipose fin -- the small fin normally found on the back just in front of the tail. Boise River anglers catching a rainbow trout longer than 20 inches that lacks an adipose fin should consider the fish a steelhead. An angler without a steelhead permit who catches a steelhead must immediately return the fish to the water.
The fish are A-run hatchery steelhead, returning to the Idaho Power Company-owned and funded Oxbow Hatchery fish trap below Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River.
Meanwhile, salmon fishing ended for the year when the fall chinook harvest season on the Snake River ended Sunday, Nov. 17.
The season ended October 31 in the Clearwater and Salmon rivers and in the Snake River, except the reach from Cliff Mountain Rapids to Hells Canyon Dam, which closes Nov. 17.
As of October 27, anglers had caught 269 marked adults and 180 jacks fall chinook and caught and released 1,161 unmarked fish in the lower Clearwater River. They caught and kept 1,260 adults and 855 jacks in the Snake River, for a total of 2,115 fish. Hatchery-origin fish are marked with a clipped adipose fin.
This year, as of Wednesday, 59,549 adult fall chinook and about 22,392 jacks crossed Lower Granite Dam, many of them returned to the Snake River above Lewiston.
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