Idaho steelhead season looks good

For deep inlanders, steelhead are sea-run rainbow trout — big anadromous fish like salmon. Unlike salmon, steelhead don’t spawn and die, but return to the ocean (although in reality few fish survive to run and spawn a second time). Steelhead lose the characteristic red band (the rainbow) that freshwater rainbow trout have.

Idaho’s steelhead runs have held up a lot better than its salmon runs, and they provide a lot of income to small central Idaho communities in late March until the end of May.

Steelhead counts indicate good fishing. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer






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    One of the main reasons that steelhead are doing better than salmon is due to the fact that they are much larger in size (7-10 inches) than salmon (3-4 inches) when they migrate through the 350 mile long gauntlet of dams, reservoirs and predator filled waters.

    Steelhead actually arrive in the fall (September-October) and a trickle actually show up year round. The fish spend the entire winter in the lower stretches of the Snake, Clearwater, and Salmon Rivers until the waters start to warm then travel to their spawning areas in upstream areas and smaller tributaries. Places like Stanley are fishing for fish that spent their winter in the middle section of the Salmon River between Whitebird and Salmon Idaho during March and until April 30.

    This means the economic benefits are distributed throughout the rural areas for a long part of the year. But the wild, listed runs are not doing well in many areas just like wild salmon in Idaho.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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