Every year, Idaho anglers await the forecast for the summer run of steelhead. These fish are big, beloved ocean-going rainbow trout, and those in the Gem State know full well how fun they are to get on the line. Unfortunately, this year’s run has, so far, presented anglers with a bit of a dry spell.
The run as a whole is divided in two between A-run and B-run fish, a divide made up respectively of those steelhead that have spent only a year in the ocean versus those that spent two years in salt water. The A-run fish mostly came in throughout the past month and was largely disappointing for many anglers. The ongoing forecast of A-run fish returning to their homewaters is the lowest since 1998; the prediction for B-run is even worse, with some speculating a weak run could prompt fishing restrictions as the fish come in through about the next month. That isn’t without precedent this summer. In mid-August, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game set a catch-and-release only rule for steelhead.
So what’s the deal? Wildlife experts chalk up the low numbers to a host of factors that affected the fish on their way out to sea, during their time in the big water, and on their return trip home. A little more specifically, the small fish encountered low water-levels on their voyage out, and once they made it to the ocean, they encountered unusually warm waters that killed off their preferred food source.
That’s not to say the fishing has dried up in Idaho. Chinook salmon are reportedly looking healthy going into their own fall run, and for those looking for a little less salt in their rainbow, Fish and Game is releasing more than 12,000 hatchery trout during the month of September. With all those fish in the water, there’s no excuse to not get out there!