Clearwater River Report

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  • idaho steelhead catch and release only 2017 2018 Image: courtesy Joe Dupont, Idaho Department of Fish & Game

    On Tuesday, Idaho Department of Fish & Game announced that steelhead fishing on all Gem-state waters will be limited to catch-and-release only beginning today, August 17. For those who enjoy eating steelhead, that is a big loss. But most of us, who would practice catch-and-release whether required by regulation or not, should be slightly pleased—despite low numbers of fish, at least we get to swing a fly if we choose to.

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                These closures were put in place because from June 1 through August 15 just 434 fish had made it over Lower Granite Dam. Historically, these are comprised of “A-run” fish that are headed to the Clearwater River’s cool flows. These fish like to hang in that cool water before shooting up the Snake River to higher tributaries, such as the Salmon and Imnaha rivers and Washington’s Grande Ronde. Idaho Fish & Game relies on these fish to supply its hatcheries with broodstock. The hatcheries need 2,680 steelhead to sustain their efforts. Management is concerned about reaching that minimum number of fish, hence catch-and-release only regulations.

    idaho steelhead catch and release only 2017 2018

    So what does that mean for the angler? We can fish! But it also means we have a responsibility: it is up to us to demonstrate proper fish handling techniques that ensure each catch survives. Idaho Fish & Game factors in a 10 percent mortality rate when fish are caught-and released. Make sure that you land each fish you come across as fast as that fish allows. Keep the fish wet and take extra time to revive the fish, ensuring that it swims away strong and healthy. Landing fish outside of the shallows is very important. This keeps the fish from banging its head on rocks. A net can be paramount in this equation, too.

    Have you seen these steelhead patterns at your local shop?

                If you do chose to fish, be aware that it’s a miracle to catch one of these fish. They battle harder feats than most people do in their lifetimes. These fish are important for the future of Idaho. They have been here longer than any of us have and need to continue to stay here longer than us. So it is up to you to ensure each catch survives.

    —Dillon McGregor, North 40 Fly Shop, Lewiston