Idaho anglers looking for numerous steelhead

Salmon season just ended, but some anglers are already turning to steelhead that have started showing up in the Snake River above Lower Granite Dam.

"I would be surprised if we don't get one caught this week," said Stu Waters of the Waters Edge tackle shop in Clarkston.

He said many die-hard steelheaders angle to be the first person to catch a steelhead each year.

"There is money riding on that buddy. There is money in a pool," he said.

Through Tuesday, 947 steelhead had been counted passing Lower Granite.

The 10-year average for this time of year is 746.

Fisheries managers are expecting this year's run to be nearly identical to last year's in overall numbers.

But the forecast calls for more A-run steelhead and fewer B-run steelhead than last year.

A-run steelhead generally return to freshwater after just one year in the ocean.

B-run steelhead return after two or three years in the ocean and are bigger.

The bulk of the B-run fish are bound for the Clearwater basin and its tributaries, but a smaller number head up the Salmon River.

Joe Hymer, a fisheries biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Vancouver, said the steelhead run bound for the Columbia and Snake rivers is expected to hit 352,000 this year, as measured at the mouth of the Columbia River.

The rest of the run will be made up of a predicted 73,500 Skamania steelhead that return to tributaries of the Columbia like the Klickitat and Hood rivers.

Last year, the run hit 355,000.

The run is measured by the number of steelhead crossing Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River and the number of steelhead caught by anglers below the dam.

Last year, about 75,000 B-run steelhead returned to the mouth of the Columbia.

This year, fisheries managers are expecting 46,600 Bs to make the trip.

The lower number of B-run steelhead will be countered with a higher A-run.

The forecast calls for 203,500 A-run fish this year compared to 163,200 last year.

Hymer said water temperatures in the Columbia River are rising fast and that could slow the run down.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing cold water from Dworshak Reservoir this week.

The water is designed to cool temperatures in the lower Snake River to benefit migrating juvenile fall chinook.

But the cold water also entices steelhead to hold in the lower section of the Clearwater River as well as the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers.

Many anglers concentrate early season fishing on both spots.