Anglers can now keep fewer steelhead they may catch on the Salmon, Little Salmon and Snake rivers.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week reduced the bag limit to two fish and the possession limit to six. The commission’s action came in response to a recommendation from fisheries managers who now predict Idaho’s steelhead returns this fall will be “well below the 10-year average,” Brian Pearson with Fish and Game reported.
“We need to make it clear to steelhead anglers that this is not a strong run by any measure,” Fish and Game Anadromous Fisheries Manager Lance Hebdon said. “It is an improvement over the last couple of years and will provide some harvest opportunity.”
While the hatchery return is expected to be low, returns of wild-origin steelhead are a bright spot, Hebdon said. Fish and Game expects around 17,000 wild-origin fish will pass over Lower Granite Dam this year. If that holds true, it would be the highest number since 2016. That bump is “definitely good news,” he said.
While the outlook isn’t great, Hebdon expects returns to hatchery trap locations to meet broodstock needs in the Salmon and Snake rivers. That is crucial, he said, because Fish and Game staffers collect broodstock from the traps.
Fish and Game tweaked the bag limits this year, he said, based on knowledge agency employees have gained from managing sport fisheries during low steelhead return years in the past.
“We have a good understanding of what it takes to ensure enough fish reach our trap facilities,” he said. “This means we don’t have to be quite as conservative as we had been in the past when more aggressive restrictions were implemented.”