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Ecology and salmon related articles

Split Steelhead Season
is on Agenda

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, November 5, 2021

IFG commissioners will decide this month whether to adopt new rules for Clearwater River

Snake River Steelhead Triggers Early Warning Indicator, NOAA is trying to ignore that fact. When Idaho Fish and Game commissioners visit Lewiston on Nov. 16, among the items on their agenda will be a decision that could shake up the long-standing structure to the steelhead fishing season on the Clearwater River.

For decades, the season upstream of Lewiston's Memorial Bridge has opened to catch-and-release fishing on July 1 and to catch-and-keep fishing on Oct. 15. The new structure that is embedded in a three-year fishing rule package would give Clearwater River anglers a chance to harvest A-run steelhead that dip into the river in September and early October and a shot at the later-arriving B-run steelhead from mid-November on. In between those two harvest periods, angling would revert to catch and release for 26 days, allowing the B-run fish to stack up.

Last year, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game formed the Clearwater River Fisheries Work Group as part of its effort to balance catch-and-release steelhead fishing on the Clearwater with new fall chinook harvest opportunities. As an outgrowth of that process, the group made up of a mix of anglers, outfitters and guides crafted proposed changes to the steelhead season.

Last spring, the department sought public comment on the proposals and eventually selected the one commissioners will vote on as part of a statewide three-year fishing rule package that also would set fishing seasons and bag limits for fall chinook and coho. Those seasons currently are approved on an annual basis depending on run strength. The rule package also includes a proposal to open catch-and-release steelhead fishing on the Snake River starting July 1. After voting on the three-year rule package, commissioners will decide if steelhead bag limits for the spring season starting Jan. 1 should be reduced because of poor returns.

If the rule package is approved, steelheaders on the Clearwater River will have to adapt to the changes. Here is how the new season would look starting in the fall of 2022:

The other proposal that went out for public comment but was not included in the rule package would have extended catch-and-release fishing on the Clearwater River through Oct. 24, followed by a harvest season with limits on the number of large steelhead that could be kept by anglers.

Anglers who participated in an email survey preferred the split harvest season structure 53 percent to 40 percent, with 7 percent expressing no preference. A web survey of 212 anglers showed a 46 percent preference for the structure with a lengthened catch-and-release season, while 29 percent opted for the split harvest season and 25 percent did not show a preference.

Those who would like to comment on the proposed changes or on any other Idaho Fish and Game matter can do so at a public hearing starting at 7 p.m. Nov. 15. The formal meeting starts at 8 a.m. Nov. 16. An agenda is available here.

Other agenda items include an update on efforts by Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to have grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem removed from federal protection, and the potential release of a draft turkey management plan for public comment.

Related Pages:
Oregon Lowers Steelhead Bag Limits on Snake by Staff, Lewiston Tribune, 9/10/21
Amid Poor Runs, Idaho Officials Propose Limited Steelhead Harvest by Staff, Lewiston Tribune, 8/31/21
Spring Offers Big Steelhead Fishing Opportunities in Smaller Rivers by Idaho Fish & Game, EIN Presswire, 2/18/21
Steelhead Closure Extended In Eastern Oregon by Staff, KXI, 12/26/19
Steelhead Closure Extended on Columbia River by Staff, The Astorian, 12/23/19
Limited Steelhead Season Approved by Staff, Moscow-Pulmman Daily News, 12/19/19

Eric Barker
Split Steelhead Season is on Agenda
Lewiston Tribune, November 5, 2021

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