The steelhead harvest fishing season for most steelhead waters opens Friday, September 1.
The run numbers are not as far behind last year's numbers as they were a week ago as the counts at Bonneville Dam show. By August 15, 2005, about 156,000 steelhead had crossed Bonneville; this year only about 133,000 crossed the dam by the same date. But between August 16 and August 27 in 2005, about 42,000 fish crossed Bonneville; this year that number as up to about 56,000 fish.
The pre-season run forecast of 312,600 steelhead is nearly identical to the actual run in 2005. The total across Bonneville through August 27 in 2005 was 197,825, and this year is 189,781. The 10-year-average for this date at Bonneville is 212,000 steelhead.
The early season counts over Lower Granite Dam, the last dam before the fish reach Idaho, also are improving. As of August 27, only 2,526 steelhead had been counted at Lower Granite. Last year at this date, more than 5,000 Idaho-bound steelhead had passed Lower Granite. The 10-year average for this date is 7,687 fish.
The numbers may mean fewer steelhead caught early in the fall fishing season, but that doesn't always mean it'll be a bad year. The average harvest during the fall seasons from 2002 to 2005 is 36,000 steelhead. Of that, about 2,000 were caught in September, 13,000 in October, 14,700 in November and 6,400 in December, said Bill Horton, anadromous fishery coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
So even if the fish are a couple of weeks late getting back to Idaho, the fishing still should be best in October and November as it has in past years.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will continue to assess the size of the 2006 run relative to the pre-season forecast. Run timing and run size suggest that changes in the season or creel limits are unlikely, Horton said.