Clearwater Blog

Tracking Lochsa River Steelhead

New Juvenile Fish Trap in the Lochsa!

We thought folks might be interested in why we have this new piece of equipment floating in the Lochsa at Lowell. The Lochsa River is a potential stronghold for wild steelhead in Idaho, though we have much to learn about this population.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is working to better understand Lochsa River wild steelhead in order to protect and increase the population of this valuable species. The Lochsa River trap will be operated annually, from February to November (as water levels allow), and will be removed and stored offsite during the winter.

Juvenile rotary screw traps are important tools for fisheries managers to capture juvenile steelhead and other fishes. The traps capture juvenile steelhead leaving their natal streams on their journey to the ocean (outmigration). Fish enter the cone of the trap on the upstream side and are held in the live well on the downstream side of the trap. Traps are checked daily and biological data is collected on individual fish before releasing them to continue their migration to the Pacific Oceanjuvenile steelhead

PIT-Tags are widely used to monitor the survival, abundance, and life history of fish populations. PIT-tags are inserted into many of the juvenile steelhead captured which allows us to track individual fishes movements downstream through the dams and back upstream as adults.

IDFG operates the Lochsa River screw trap to collect information on how many wild steelhead are leaving the Lochsa River, when they are leaving, how old they are, and how well they survive on their way to the ocean. These data are extremely useful in providing agencies the information needed to protect and perpetuate this valuable resource. - Brian Knoth, Clearwater Region Fisheries Biologist

 

Screw trap on the Lochsa River for trapping juvenile steelhead

Noxious weeds: a serious habitat threat

I've heard a lot about pesky weeds in Idaho over the years. However, I was surprised to read the statistics in a recent Post Register article picked up by the Spokesman-Review.

Many of Idaho's wildlife management plans have sections dedicated to weeds as a habitat threat. I know that I'll be looking for additional information so that I'm personally not inadvertently spreading noxious weeds. I'll start with Idaho Department of Agriculture's Noxious Weed Program.

Chinook Fishing Results - May 24, 2015

IDFG Chinook salmon  Harvest and Effort Report for May 18 to May 24, 2015.

   
                 

Clearwater River drainage

Chinook Salmon Kept

Angler Hours

Hours per fish kept

Unclipped Adults released

Comments

Adults

Jacks

Total

Railroad Bridge to Cherrylane Bridge

Closed to salmon fishing on May 17

Cherrylane Bridge to Orofino Bridge

648

36

684

5,133

7.5

82

Closed to salmon fishing on May 22

North Fork Clearwater River

586

3

589

2,919

5.0

77

 

Orofino Bridge to Kooskia Bridge

157

10

167

2,489

14.9

37

 

Middle Fork Clearwater River

292

2

294

2,649

9.0

90

 

South Fork Clearwater River

249

0

249

3,207

12.9

16

 

Lochsa River

0

0

0

33

NA

0

 

Clearwater River drainage weekly total

1,932

51

1,983

16,430

8.3

302

 

Clearwater River drainage SEASON TOTAL

5,164

58

5,222

76,479

14.6

1,130

 

               

 

Salmon River drainage

Chinook Salmon Kept

Angler Hours

Hours per fish kept

Unclipped Adults released

Comments

Adults

Jacks

Total

Rice Creek Bridge to Hammer Creek Boat Ramp

208

25

233

3,664

15.7

39

 

Hammer Creek Boat Ramp to Time Zone Bridge

579

6

585

10,069

17.2

79

 

Time Zone Bridge to Short's Creek

834

15

849

8,834

10.4

44

 

Short's Creek to Vinegar Creek

47

0

47

1,111

23.6

0

 

Little Salmon River--Mouth to lower Pollock bridge

1,085

3

1,088

16,444

15.1

33

 

Little Salmon River--Upstream of lower Pollock bridge

0

0

0

0

NA

0

No catch or effort was observed

Salmon River drainage weekly total

2,753

49

2,802

40,122

14.3

195

 

Salmon River drainage SEASON TOTAL

4,605

59

4,664

67,793

14.5

386

 

                 

Snake River drainage

Chinook Salmon Kept

Angler Hours

Hours per fish kept

Unclipped Adults released

Comments

Adults

Jacks

Total

Hells Canyon Dam tailrace-weekly total

111

10

121

1,844

15.2

23

 

Hells Canyon tailrace SEASON TOTAL

367

14

381

5,737

15.1

85

 

 

New fishing access agreement on Little Salmon River - Lower Section

The Little Salmon River along US Highway 95 near Riggins is a popular fishery for Idaho anglers looking to catch Chinook salmon and steelhead. Much of the property along the Little Salmon is privately owned, and until now, a stretch that is productive for salmon and steelhead has been inaccessible to the public. Access for this popular fishery has been made possible thanks to an agreement with the Little Salmon River Ranch and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The new Little Salmon River Access area is a cooperative effort with the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

Thank you in advance to our responsible anglers who follow these rules to keep access on this property:

  • Remain in allowed areas (see maps below)
  • No wading across the river
  • No use from 10:30 pm to 5:00 am
  • No camping
  • No campfires
  • Pack-in/pack-out your garbage
  • No shooting
  • Dogs must remain under control
  • No launching of watercraft
  • No commercial use
  • Gates will be locked Oct 1 through December 31, however foot access is allowed year round

 

 

Little Salmon River Access Map And Rules Brochure
PDF Poster of these rules and this map [1,076 KB]

 

Detailed map for new access agreement at Mile Marker 193 on US 95.


PDF Poster of new access area [2,460 KB]

 

 

You may also be interested in an angler etiquette video Idaho Fish and Game recently put together. Learn more about how to interact with other anglers and keep it possible for Idaho Fish and Game to provide additional access by watching this video.

Little Salmon River Chinook Salmon - They are Here!!!

It's mid-May and Chinook Salmon are being caught in the Little Salmon River. During the last three days, creel clerks have observed 12 adult Chinook Salmon being caught on the Little Salmon River. Rapid River Hatchery has caught 30 fish in the trap, this week.

Get ready for a great fishing weekend with Little Salmon River flows around 1,400 cfs and clear water.

North Idaho Fishing Delight - Priest Lake

Most people relate fishing only to the pursuit of fish - but it's so much more! This past week, I had the pleasure of fishing for lake trout on Priest Lake. The first day of our two-day venture was windy and conditions were difficult for holding location in a boat and getting your line down to where lake trout reside. We were fishing at a depth of 150 - 200' and with the wave movement, a lake trout would need to be very fast to catch bait moving up and down in response to the boat bobbing on the white caps. This did however, give us a great opportunity to enjoy the scenery and birds using the wind to effortlessly move up and down.

Day two brought calm and outstanding fishing. We landed and released in excess of 60 lake trout in about 5 hours of fishing. White tailed grubs seemed to be the bait of the day suspended about 18" from the bottom.

Idaho Fish and Game Releases Tigers!

Tiger trout, that is.

The Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game recently released Tiger Trout in several waters around the state. The fish were 8 - 12" long at stocking and should be easy to catch.

Tiger Trout are a sterile cross-breed between brook trout and brown trout and can be an aggressive predator on other fish species. In the wild, these species occasionally interbreed and we've documented "tigers" in both the Panhandle and Magic Valley regions. "Tigers" are being used as a fish management tool to control nongame and nonnative fish populations.

If you happen to catch one, please send us a picture.

Bigger Fish and Better Angler Success

As Fish and Game stocks rainbow trout this spring, they are doing something different that will lead to better success for Idaho anglers. A good share of the hatchery rainbow trout stocked in Idaho’s largest still-water fisheries this spring will be twelve inches instead of the standard of ten inches. Watch this video to learn why this is happening.

Fish and Game’s rainbow trout hatchery program exists for one sole purpose: putting fish in Idaho waters for anglers to catch. But during the last ten years, the cost of raising fish has skyrocketed. While the cost of fish food has increased by more than 150 percent, funding for the hatchery program has remained stagnant. In 2011, managers reduced fish production of put-and-take rainbow trout by 18 percent to keep the program within budget. At the same time they started tracking fish that anglers caught as part of a program called “Tag-You’re-It”.

Fisheries researchers tagged thousands of fish over a four year period, and tracked the tags with the help from anglers.

“We tagged a bunch of fish and put those fish out there, and essentially let the anglers do the work in returning that information to us through our hotline and our website,” said Senior Fisheries Research Biologist John Cassinelli. “So that has given us this large database.”

That database showed that twelve inch rainbow trout are more likely to be caught than ten inch trout. This knowledge has allowed researchers to reorganize the hatchery rainbow trout program in a way that puts larger trout in the creels of Idaho anglers without increasing the cost of the hatchery program.

The science and math show that for every limit of six rainbow trout anglers catch, Fish and Game must stock roughly 18 ten inch trout.  When 12 inch trout are stocked in the same waters, only 11 fish are needed for each six fish limit, on average.

Regardless of how many trout managers stock, the true measure of success for the hatchery program is how many trout anglers catch. As the program expands over the next 16 months, managers will be putting more twelve inch rainbows into most of Idaho’s large still-water fisheries. 

Check out the fish stocking page for monthly updates on fish stocking region by region.

 

 

Potlatch River Steelhead

The Potlatch River is a smaller little known river that flows into the Clearwater River about 15 miles upstream of Lewiston, Idaho. For those familiar with this river, images of raging dirty water in the spring and barely a trickle in the summer often come to mind. At first appearance, this is hardly a river that one would consider to support any type of a quality fishery. Years of habitat degradation from farming, logging, grazing and human development has taken its toll on this river. However, about 10 years ago the Idaho Department of Fish and Game began surveying this river and what we learned was truly a surprise.

This river supported a thriving population of truly wild steelhead with almost no hatchery influence. Upon talking to some of the locals, they told stories of when their grandfathers caught steelhead in tributaries that are now dry. It became evident that this river had a lot of potential to produce more steelhead, and that is when it was decided to embark on a major habitat restoration program in this basin. To help direct where money is spent, we initiated a monitoring program to better understand where the steelhead occur, how many there are, and how they respond to the various habitat improvement projects.

We are currently in our tenth field season of studying the steelhead population in the Potlatch River basin. Much of our monitoring occurs in the East Fork Potlatch River and Big Bear Creek, two of the major steelhead producing drainages in the Potlatch. Our monitoring program consists of three major components.  We trap adult steelhead at a weir to estimate how many spawn. We use two rotary screw traps (see picture to the right) to catch juvenile steelhead to evaluate the number of smolts that migrate to the ocean each year. And we use PIT tag arrays to learn when adult and juvenile fish implanted with a small microchip enter or leave certain streams. By using at all this data, we can assess steelhead survival and how well the habitat restoration program is working.

Adult steelhead travel over 500 miles from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in tributaries of the Potlatch River. Since 2008, we have estimated between 71-106 adult steelhead return annually to the East Fork Potlatch River to spawn. In 2014, we estimated 96 adults returned to the East Fork which is the 3rd highest return to date. In one of the strong run years, we believe around 1,000 adult steelhead entered the Potlatch River to spawn somewhere in the watershed.

Juvenile steelhead leave the Potlatch River tributaries typically from March-June as they begin their journey to the Pacific Ocean. We monitor this outmigration and estimate the number of juveniles departing from Big Bear Creek and the East Fork Potlatch River drainages. In 2014, we estimated approximately 8,356 juvenile steelhead out-migrated from the Big Bear Creek drainage and 11,126 from the East Fork Potlatch River drainage. These estimates are typical and have ranged from 7,000-48,000 in the East Fork and 4,000-20,000 in Big Bear Creek. The picture below shows our crew PIT tagging juvenile steelhead.

We will continue to monitor and evaluate the steelhead population in the Potlatch watershed as habitat restoration efforts continue. The IDFG, Latah Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Forest Service, and Nez Perce Tribe have made significant efforts to improve habitat in this watershed. These efforts help insure this steelhead population will thrive for years to come and ultimately provide new fishing opportunities for anglers.  - Jason Fortier, Senior Fish Technician, Clearwater Region