LEWISTON, Idaho — Fisheries managers should shut down steelhead fishing in the Columbia and Snake river basins to protect a wild run that returns to Idaho’s Clearwater River, according to a conservation group.
The Conservation Angler told The Lewiston Tribune in a story on Saturday that even catch-and-release regulations threaten the survival of B-run steelhead.
In a letter to Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore, Executive Director David Moskowitz said steelhead fishing should be closed to allow the wild fish to spawn.
“The ongoing fishery will cause mortalities to the wild B-run return now in Idaho rivers,” Moskowitz wrote. “Please close the fisheries in order to allow wild B-runs to spawn in their natal rivers and put some more wild fish ‘in the bank’ — so to speak — of Idaho’s great rivers.”
Fish and Game Fisheries Bureau Chief Jim Fredericks said precautions are in place. He also said there are so few fish to catch, that fewer anglers are out trying to catch them.
“Encounter rates go up and down with the number of fish out there to encounter,” he said. “When populations are low, fewer wild fish are handled. Angler effort has been about a third of what it would be in a normal year, so encounter rates are even lower than they would be in our typical calculations.”
He said most of the fishing pressure is aimed at places holding hatchery fish, not wild fish.
When it comes to steelhead regulations, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Fish Program Manager Chris Donley said his agency will likely defer to Idaho on Idaho fish.
“If Idaho is not concerned about fish endemic to their river, we are probably not going to be concerned in Washington,” he said.