Graduate student Will Lubenau from the University of Idaho has been hard at work studying Idaho steelhead since July 1, 2019. During the next few years, this study will help biologists improve our understand steelhead migrations. This study will also use tagged steelhead to estimate how many are caught and released by anglers throughout the Snake River basin. The most important data for the study comes from anglers. Reporting tagged steelhead is easy and will provide critical information for this study!
As you may have heard, the steelhead fishery in the Clearwater River recently closed because of low returns of broodstock fish to Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. Returns to other hatcheries are not as low, and fisheries elsewhere remain open at this time. In light of the closed Clearwater steelhead fishing, our effort regarding the Clearwater River will be focused on estimating how many wild steelhead survive to spawn. However, anglers might encounter tagged steelhead in the Snake, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, and Salmon rivers, which are still important to report! The steelhead study in those rivers will continue until spring as planned.
Most of the steelhead used in this study are captured at Lower Granite Dam using the adult fish trap in the fish ladder. Captured steelhead are then tagged with a small internal tag (PIT-tag) and an orange external tag (t-bar anchor tag). These tagged steelhead are then released to continue their upstream migration where they might be caught by anglers in various different rivers. Anglers can then report when and where they caught a tagged steelhead by reporting the unique number on the tag. About 10% of the steelhead that pass Lower Granite Dam are tagged, so anglers have a good chance of catching a tagged fish.
Information from tags in the dorsal fin will help biologists estimate how many steelhead are caught and how they migrate through Idaho.
As of September 23, 2019, 267 steelhead have been tagged and released. At this time 28 tagged steelhead have been reported as caught. All the reported steelhead were caught in the Clearwater River, which is probably a function of the cold water released from Dworshak Dam. As the Snake River continues to cool off, we expect steelhead will start to spread out more widely, and tag reports will begin to come from other areas in the Snake River basin.
Check out the Wild Salmon and Steelhead page for more updates and stories about research and management on Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead.