September 18, 2019
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider closing steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River and part of the Snake River at a special meeting Friday.
The proposal from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game follows an official downgrade in the forecast for the return of hatchery B-run steelhead. On Tuesday, state, tribal and federal fisheries managers in the Columbia River basin dramatically slashed their forecast for the big steelhead that return largely to the Clearwater Basin. A preseason forecast called for about 8,000 B-run steelhead to return above Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River and about 5,300 to make it at least as far as Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River.
They now say only about 2,500 B-run steelhead, including 1,300 wild fish, will return to Bonneville Dam. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game predicts about 1,700 hatchery B-run steelhead that have spent two years in the ocean will return above Lower Granite Dam. That is less than is required to meet spawning goals at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery at Ahsahka. They expect about 900 wild B-run steelhead that have spent two-years in the ocean to return at least as far as Lower Granite Dam.
The proposal calls for closing all steelhead fishing, even catch-and-release fishing, on the Clearwater, Middle Fork of the Clearwater, South Fork of the Clearwater and North Fork of the Clearwater rivers, and on the Snake River from the Idaho/Washington state line at Lewiston upstream to Couse Creek Boat Ramp south of Asotin starting Sept. 29.
Washington will consider closing steelhead fishing on the same stretch of the Snake River if Idaho approves the proposal.
Both states had already adopted regulations requiring anglers to release all steelhead longer than 28 inches caught from those river stretches.
The closures would not effect ongoing fall chinook fishing seasons.