Steelhead from Creation to Catch

More than 50 percent of all Columbia River basin steelhead come from Idaho, either spawning in the wild or raised in a hatchery.

In Idaho, 14 salmon and steelhead hatcheries, built as mitigation for losses from hydropower projects in the Snake River drainage, produce about 10 million Chinook salmon, 7 million steelhead and 200,000 sockeye salmon for release annually.

Rapid River Hatchery opened in 1964, Niagara Springs in 1966 and Pahsimeroi in 1967. In September 2013, Springfield Hatchery was completed near American Falls Reservoir.

Idaho's A-run steelhead are usually found in the Snake and Salmon rivers. They return from the ocean earlier in the year (usually June through August) and they most often return after spending one year in the ocean. Because of their early return and short stay in the ocean they usually weigh 4 to 6 pounds and are generally 23 to 26 inches in length.

The B-run steelhead most often return to the Clearwater River, but some return to tributaries in the Salmon River. These fish usually spend two years in the ocean and start their migration to Idaho later in the summer or fall of the year (usually late August or September). Because of the extra year and the extra summer of growing in the ocean, they return as much bigger fish. Average B-run steelhead weigh between 10 and 13 pounds and are 31 to 34 inches long.

Steelhead grow very large when they spend a third year in the ocean before they return to Idaho to spawn. These steelhead are usually larger than 37 inches and often weigh more than 20 pounds.

The Idaho state record steelhead was 30 pounds and 2 ounces and was caught in the Clearwater River in 1973. For more information check out the links below.

Idaho Fishing Planner:

September 2012 Fish & Game News “Steelhead Fishing in Idaho”

How to Fish for Steelhead videos:

Stories about steelhead and salmon fishing in Idaho: