Upper Salmon River Steelhead Update – 10/03/2023
By angelamontana

Posted: October 4, 2023

Hi everyone, now that we are into October, we thought it would be a good time to issue the first steelhead fishing report for the fall 2023 season on the Upper Salmon River. IDFG personnel made multiple trips downriver last week to check for anglers and collect interviews. While there were a small number of anglers out enjoying some nice early season weather, we did not encounter any anglers that reported catching a steelhead, and the overall angler effort was very low. We expect both catch and angler effort to begin ramping up soon as more steelhead make it to the area.

Since there was not much fishery data to report on for this week, we wanted to take this opportunity to discuss what the steelhead run on the Upper Salmon River will look like this year. The best news we have to share is that we are estimating that the total number of adipose-clipped steelhead returning this fall will be the highest since the fall of 2016. The bulk  of these fish (80%) are destined for the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery while the remainder are destined for the Pahsimeroi Fish Hatchery (table below).

USR steelhead estimates 10-01-2023

In addition to having more steelhead headed our way this fall, the timing of Sawtooth steelhead passing over Lower Granite Dam is the earliest we have seen since 2014. As of October 1st, just over 7,500 Sawtooth steelhead have already crossed Lower Granite Dam (figure below). This should result in the fishery picking up earlier than we’ve seen during the previous five years.

Sawt steelhead at LGD 10-01-2023

Another point we wanted to mention about this fall’s steelhead run is that the average size of steelhead will be smaller this year compared to last year. As anglers may recall, the average size of steelhead last fall and spring was large for the Upper Salmon River. That was because around 80 percent of the steelhead returned as two-ocean adults (steelhead that stayed out in the ocean for two years instead of one). This year, approximately 70 percent of the steelhead are returning as one-ocean adults which is close to average for the Upper Salmon River hatcheries. Even though most of the steelhead will be one-ocean fish, we are still estimating that nearly 4,500 two-ocean adults have crossed Bonneville dam. This means that there will be larger steelhead out there to catch.

The last thing we would like to mention is that several sportsmen’s access sites on the Upper Salmon River will temporarily close this fall for improvements. The sites that will temporarily close are North Fork, Bobcat Gulch, Fourth of July, Colston Corner, Deer Gulch, and South Butte. The North Fork site is closing to make repairs to the boat ramp and bank. These repairs should be made this week so that the ramp can open back up by mid-October. The rest of the access sites are being temporarily closed so that the highway approaches can be regraded and paved. This construction will be completed in phases so that each site will only be closed for 2-3 days, and work at all the sites should be completed by mid-October. For additional information about these projects please follow this link.

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