Prior to the cold November weather, the fall of 2015 proved to be another good steelhead season on the Salmon River. Warm water temperatures during the first part of October
contributed to a slow start for the fishery, but catch rates improved as water temperatures cooled in late October and early November. Average catch rates during the fall of 2015 are similar or slightly better compared to last year. Last year below North Fork, on average anglers fished for 14 hours to catch a Steelhead and 44 hours to keep a Steelhead.
This year, anglers fished for 14 hours to catch a Steelhead and 35 hours to keep a Steelhead. Similar to last year, anglers have also had good success between North Fork and Ellis this fall. Catch rates for anglers fishing this reach were 13 hours per Steelhead caught and 26 hours per Steelhead. kept. Last year between North Fork and Ellis, anglers fished for 12 hours to catch a Steelhead and 22 hours to keep a Steelhead. Catch rates above North Fork from the past two falls indicate that, given the right conditions, steelhead can be found in the upper reaches in the fall, and anglers who target those fish can be quite successful. One way to monitor steelhead movement and distribution throughout the upper Salmon River is through the use of passive integrated transponders (PIT) tags (left). PIT tags are s m a l l electronic tags, similar to the ‘microc h i p s ’ inserted into pets.
PIT tags are inserted into a small percentage of juvenile Steelhead captured at tributary traps, or released from hatcheries, as well as some adults returning over Lower Granite Dam. A PIT-tag antenna was installed in the Salmon River near the 11 Mile boat ramp (approximately 11 miles upstream from the town of Salmon) in 2012, which allows us to see when returning steelhead migrate past the antenna. Both the arrival timing of fish and the onset of cold temperatures determine upriver movement and distribution of Steelhead during the fall. This fall, 56 PIT tagged Steelhead swam past the PIT-tag antenna at 11 Mile. This is very similar to the fall of 2014, when 57 tagged Steelhead swam past the antenna. This resulted in good winter and early spring fishing in and around Salmon. Conversely, in fall of 2013, when Steelhead didn’t arrive in the fishery until mid-October, only 13 tagged Steelhead swam past the 11 Mile antenna.
While these numbers don’t represent all the Steelhead migrating upriver, it does give us an indication of general movement patterns and fish distribution throughout the upper Salmon River. As of November 16th, 93,551 hatchery adipose fin-clipped Steelhead were counted at Lower Granite Dam compared to 105,116 fish by the same date in 2014. This year at Lower Granite Dam, the estimated total number of hatchery Steelhead returning to the upper Salmon River is 26,963, compared to 28,603 fish last year. Steelhead that return to to the upper Salmon River are counted at Lower Granite Dam through May of the following year, so by spring of 2016 the number of fish that return to our area may equal or exceed last year’s counts.
Based on the estimated number of Steelhead returning, combined with movement past the 11 Mile antenna, anglers fishing during the spring of 2016 may be able to find Steelhead further upriver during the months of February and March compared to other years. Similar to last spring, anglers may experience some of the best Steelhead catch rates in the Salmon and Ellis areas during February, depending on spring 2016 weather conditions. Additionally, anglers who fished early in the spring season avoided poor fishing conditions created by rain runoff and early snow melt. Anglers are encouraged to contact the Salmon Region Fish and Game Office to find out local fishing and weather conditions before they venture into the field. In the meantime, good luck fishing and hopefully you’ll catch a trophy of a lifetime.
Report via Idaho Fish & Game – Salmon Region