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A Great Day on the River,
a Boost to Idaho's Economy

by Rich Howard
Idaho Statesman, December 5, 2009

Reader's View the Multiplier Effect of Fishing

Whether it's on the lower Clearwater River near Orofino or around Challis on the upper Salmon River, guided steelhead fishing has a profound economic impact on individuals, businesses and community traditions. Keeping these magnificent fish returning each year from their ocean odyssey is an obligation for all Idaho citizens. The first step is realizing the value of this precious resource. The second step is removing the four dams on the lower Snake River so we can reclaim them.

Salmon and steelhead have an economic multiplier effect on towns from Lewiston to Orofino, and Riggins to Challis. This year, I had the opportunity to take advantage of improved steelhead runs and do an economic "experiment" to find out just how much money a guided fishing trip brings to local Idaho communities.

My son and I had the rare moment when our schedules were both free and we could spend several days together on the Salmon River fishing for the venerable steelhead. I booked our fishing trip with outfitter Kerry Brennen. His business, Rapid River Outfitters ( located in Riggins, has provided guide services to fishers for more than 20 years. We traveled from Boise to Riggins on Oct. 10. Accommodations were found at the Salmon River Motel and we dined at the River Rock Cafe in Riggins.

The next morning found us with Roy Atkins, our fishing guide, at the Lucile boat ramp. Roy uses a 16-foot drift boat made by Willie Boat Company of Central Point, Ore. It's his office for about 80 days during the fall and spring steelhead seasons. We enjoyed the extraordinary fall scenery, caught four hatchery steelhead and released three wild fish. It was a cool but sunny October day to enjoy with my son.

While my son could not join me on my next steelhead adventure, I left Boise on Nov. 3, stopped in Grangeville for fuel and food and made my destination of Orofino. I had booked with the Clearwater River Company (, owned by Ryan Pitcher. He also uses a Willie drift boat for his office. I stayed at the Clearwater Crossing Resort, dined at Fiesta En Jalisco cafe for dinner and Krystal's Cafe for an early morning breakfast. We spent a full eight hours angling for these trophy fish. I kept two but returned the others to the river. Again, I had another memorable fall day of fishing as only Idaho rivers can offer.

The economic multiplier of these two trips is revealing. In preparing for the trip, I needed to buy a resident Idaho fishing license and steelhead permit. This cost $38.50. Guided fishing on the Salmon River costs $195, and when you include tips, fuel costs, food, motel room and miscellaneous items, the total cost per fisher or rod per day is about $385 per rod. In comparison, guided fishing for the larger fish that return to the Clearwater River costs about $493 per rod.

These trophy fisheries have attracted fishers not only from Idaho but from many states throughout the nation. The costs per rod go up accordingly when one includes airline tickets, car rental and out-of-state fishing license and steelhead permit costs. The multiplier effect to Idaho communities is significant.

We should stop wasting dollars by keeping the high-cost, low-value dams on the lower Snake River. Replace them with solar and wind power energy sources. Invest in a more profitable resource - steelhead and chinook salmon, the icons of Northwest rivers.

Rich Howard lives in Boise.
A Great Day on the River, a Boost to Idaho's Economy
Idaho Statesman, December 5, 2009

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