LEWISTON, Idaho — Steelhead anglers hoping for strong returns this year on the Snake River likely will be disappointed, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
State biologists are forecasting another poor return to the Snake River and its tributaries, especially for the larger B-run fish, the Lewiston Tribune reported .
They are also forecasting few B-run steelheads for the Clearwater River.
Biologist Alan Byrne in Boise said the state expects 60,700 steelhead to return at least as far as Lower Granite Dam this fall. That includes 55,100 A-run steelheads that tend to spend just one year in the ocean. Only 5,600 of the larger B-run steelhead, which usually spend two years at sea, are expected.
The A-run will include about 35,950 hatchery fish that have had their adipose fins clipped, making them available for harvest, Byrne said, and 2,250 unclipped hatchery fish. Wild A-run steelhead will number about 16,950.
The B-run is looking much worse. Biologists forecast 5,600 fish and just with just 4,130 to be clipped hatchery fish.
Another 770 unclipped hatchery fish are expected to return. Just 665 wild fish are expected.
The B-run is likely to be similar to returns in 2017 when the agency put rules in place to restrict the harvest of bigger steelhead, Byrne said. If the modest prediction for the A-run return proves overly optimistic, it will be a tough year for anglers, he said.
Last year, the state counted about 94,700 steelheads at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. This year, regional fisheries managers are expecting 118,000 to return at least as far as Bonneville.
"It's not very good compared to the last 10 to 20 years, but better than our actual run last year," he said. "But if the one-ocean component (A-run steelhead) is a no show, that forecast at Bonneville is likely optimistic."