Idaho’s Snake River Steelhead Fisheries Plan

Photo Credit IDFG|||| Photo Credit IDFG|||| ||||


In late December 2018, Y2U submitted a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with regard to Idaho Fish and Game's (IDFG) Snake River Steelhead Fisheries Plan. IDFG closed the fall steelhead season on the Clearwater River and Lower Snake River drainages this past September due to poor fish returns. The economic effect on rural Idaho communities from closing this steelhead season early and potentially not opening future steelhead seasons must be considered. Downstream impacts, especially downstream federally operated dams, killing the vast number of Idaho’s wild steelhead need to be analyzed.  Idaho’s steelhead fishing outfitters are a key component to promote education regarding the magnificence of the wild and hatchery steelhead, the elevation which they climb, the miles which they travel and the obstacles that they overcome to return to Idaho and the Snake River (SR) system. Idaho’s steelhead fishing outfitters help to instill in the public a deep respect for and desire to support conservation efforts for the SR steelhead fishery. Eliminating a generation of steelhead fisherman by eliminating the opportunity to fish for the SR steelhead could have detrimental effects on future conservation efforts concerning the SR system steelhead. Idaho outfitters have taken many steps, such as, guide and client education, acquiring more fish friendly gear and through the use of landing and handling techniques that minimize harm to incidentally caught wild steelhead. While Idaho anglers targeting hatchery fish do incidentally catch wild fish and this does result in the death of approximately 3.2% of returning adult wild SR steelhead, this incidental mortality is minor in comparison to the lethality of the federally operated dams downstream. 98.6% of Idaho’s SR steelhead die from causes downstream. Of the 1.6% that return to Idaho, 3.2% of these may die from incidental interactions with anglers. The harm caused by Idaho anglers does not compare to the catastrophic mortality inflicted on the fish as they migrate to and from the Pacific. Reservoirs full of warm water, travelling over and through eight (8) federally operated dams and water quality issues from Columbia River Gorge industry have far more negative effect on the SR steelhead than do Idaho anglers. In late February, the IDFG opened the 2019 spring and fall steelhead seasons.

Work Plan

We will continue to provide commentary to NOAA and IDFG with regard to how seasons, rules, and regulations impact the fishery and those who rely on it.

Expected Outcome

Continued success of the Snake River Steelhead Fishery.