Every year since 1997 — with the exception of 2019 — Idaho Fish and Game has stocked steelhead in the Boise River, and fishing for them has become a popular November tradition for anglers.
Fish and Game stocked between 400 and 450 steelhead in the Boise River during November in 2020, and anglers will have a chance to catch them for several months. Anyone fishing for steelhead needs a valid fishing license and a steelhead permit. See the 2019-21 Steelhead and Salmon Rules for more information.
The steelhead stocked in the Boise River are among the A-run hatchery steelhead that return to the Idaho Power Company-owned and funded Oxbow Hatchery fish trap, which is located below Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River.
About 600 of the returning steelhead will become part of the ongoing steelhead hatchery program at Oxbow Hatchery as part of Idaho Power Company’s mitigation for the effects on salmon and steelhead of the Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams.
Eggs are incubated at the hatchery until early May and then transferred to Niagara Springs Fish Hatchery, which is also owned and financed by Idaho Power Company, and staffed by Fish and Game. In March, young steelhead have reached smolt size and are hauled in tankers to the Snake River and released below Hells Canyon Dam to begin their 570-mile migration to the Pacific Ocean.
Steelhead that are trapped, but not needed as broodstock, are released into sport fisheries — such as the Boise River — or distributed to Native American tribes for ceremonial and subsistence purposes.
"Historically, before the Hells Canyon dams went in, steelhead were able to run all the way up the Boise River, so we wanted to bring that opportunity back to anglers," said John Cassinelli, Fish and Game's Southwest Region Fish Manager.