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Steelhead Surge into Idaho Rivers

by Staff & Wire
The Idaho Statesman, October 8, 2003

Steelhead zipped over the last major dam on the Snake River as water temperatures cooled enough to bring stalled fish home to Idaho.

Steelhead on their way back to the state waste no time clearing some of the dams on the Columbia River, but donīt enter the lower Snake River in Washington because the water is too warm.

Once the temperature cools to their liking, the fish bolt for home, crossing the four lower Snake dams quickly. They return from the ocean to spawn next spring in tributaries of the Snake River.

Since mid-September, about 84,000 fish have cleared Lower Granite Dam, the last dam on the lower Snake. That represents about 81 percent of the total run of 103,367 steelhead that have crossed the dam in the past three weeks. At the same time, the counts at Bonneville Dam on the other end of the river complex are nearing an end.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists expect a total run of about 141,000 fish, which is 40 percent higher than the 10-year average, but is substantially lower than the past two years.

The 2002 count was 222,000; the long-term average is 101,000. The runs of the past three years are the only ones in the past decade to exceed 100,000 steelhead.

Biologists are seeing the hatchery B-run of steelhead coming back at only about half the preseason forecast. The B-run fish, mostly headed for the Clearwater River, are the largest Idaho steelhead.

Biologists arenīt sure whatīs causing a decreased number of fish to return, but theyīve changed the forecast from 26,000 to about 13,000.

Staff & wire reports
Steelhead Surge into Idaho Rivers
Idaho Statesman, October 8, 2003

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