When we write the rule pamphlets we often don't take into account how they may effect other species and fishing opportunities. To answer your question, I went to the Administrative Rules section of Idaho Code.
For Steelhead, when you reach your daily bag limit, you only need to stop fishing for Steelhead as per IDAPA 13.01.11.405.04. This means you can no longer target Steelhead - but you can still fish for Fall Chinook and Coho or resident fish species. When an officer contacts you in the field and you show him you have filled your bag limit for Steelhead and then he asks you, "what are you trying to catch" the correct answer is, "anything but Steelhead."
In the case of Fall Chinook and Coho - things are a little more tricky. IDAPA 13.01.11.505.04 says, when you reach your daily bag limit for salmon you need to stop fishing for salmon.When the rule was written, we did not consider the overlap between Coho and Fall Chinook. In practical terms, your chances of catching bag limits for either species is very slim.If you have your bag limit of Coho and are approched by an officer, when he asks the question, "what are you trying to catch" specifically state, "Fall Chinook" - unless that stretch of the river is closed to the take of Fall Chinook.
The short answer is yes. Idaho Department of Fish and Game has a long history of monitoring chinook salmon returns to the Middle Fork Salmon River and its tributaries. In 2014 we estimated2,607 wild chinook salmon spawned in the Middle Fork Salmon drainage.
The longer answer isstandardized counting began in the 1950's with biologists counting chinook salmon redds (the nests salmon make in the bottom of the stream) from airplanes and helicopters. From those early counts we develop estimates of spawning escapement to specific populations within the Middle Fork Salmon drainage. Most recently the monitoring has been a collaborative effort between Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes,the Nez Perce Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountian Research Station. Most of the data for individual populations will be available shortlyon the Follow Idaho Salmon Home website linked here http://126.96.36.199/idaho/web/apps/index_main.php
We are in the process of updating the website with the most current data.
Thanks for your interest in Idaho's Wild Salmon!
Program Coordinator for Endangered Steelhead and Salmon
Call it "Mother Nature's" fail-safe for any event that may effect survival of adult steelhead that arrive in Idaho earlier in the year. If there is a rain-on-snow event that causes fish mortality or other natural disaster, there still will be late arriving fish to spawnand perpetuate the species.
Genetics typically determine when Steelhead return to Idaho. We have Steelhead that spend one-year in the ocean; two years or even three. There are also Steelhead that never migrate to the ocean but still reach sexual maturity and spawn with the larger ocean-run fish. They will actually begin their journey to Idaho as yearly as June in July, however, thermal barriers (pockets of warm water) will delay them at points in the Columbia River. We've also had Steelhead delay entry into the Snake River until water temperatures cool from a rain event or release of cool water from one of the dams.
Steelhead continue to thrive in Idaho - despite all the"hurdles" because they have diversity in when they return to Idaho from the ocean.
When fishing in Idaho, it doesn't matter if you have an "Alabama rig" or gear names after any other state - you can only have 5 hooks per line under your direct control.
I will say a "qualifying yes" to your question on lures. Provided the lure isn't scented, they would be legal. Scented lures would be considered "bait" and illegal in"no bait" waters. The only other way a lure would be illegal is if the hook gap was greater than 5/8" and you were fishing for anadromous Chinook Salmon or Steelhead.
All of those lighted, vibrating, battery operated lures are legal for use in Idaho.
One thing you need to know is once steelhead leave saltwater and move to freshwater they can no longer utilize/digest food. With that said, they still seem to have a feeding instinct and will still strike at baits or other fish but have no way to convert that food into body sustinance.
In the fall, when steelhead reach Idaho and the water is still relatively warm, steelhead strike at items suspended in the water column. That's why plugs, flies and lures are the most effective items for catching steelhead. The best success is to fish eddy lines and the tail-end of pools. In the winter when the water is colder, they aren't quite as agressive and bright-colored "sammy" with shrimp or other bait is a popular item to entice a steelhead to strike. Usually, this bait needs to be presented in the water column and within close proximity.
As temperatures begin to clime in the spring and steelhead get closer to spawning time, they become more aggressive and lures, plugs and flies are effective items to entice steelhead to strike. Again, they are in the active water column and not feeding on the bottom.
The ony difference between a "newby" biologist and a bald biologist is the "newby" is arrogant enough to predict how fish and wildlife will respond to changing environmental conditions. I'm a "gray-haired" biologist so I'm not going to give you a definitive answer to your question.
What I will say is, Mother Nature has contingencies for all environmental changes and variation. Typically, when the water warms early, the fish mature and spawn earlier than on a normal year.flow and temperature year. Just a guess - this is probably a programmed response to the risk of rivers warming and flows dropping earlier than an average flow and temperature year.With that said, all it takes is a cold-front to slow the maturation process and put conditions back to what we consider "normal" in our short-term vision of the world.
Peak of spawning (time when most steelhead will spawn) may shift a week or two, but there will still be steelhead spawning in April and early May. Again, variable spawning timing is one way to make sure some segment of the steelhead population will successfully reproduce.
The normal start-up for steelhead trapping is late February and early March so trapping has just recently started. Some programming needs to be finished so our web reports can link (in near-real-time) to the database containing the hatchery information. We hope to have that up and running as soon as possible.
Your question is very broad and there are well over 100 papers out there on trout to draw on so generalizing is difficult. Under most conditions, Catch-and-release mortality or â€œhooking mortalityâ€� of trout is thought to be relatively low in most instances. There are a number of summary papers out there but one of the most frequently cited suggests hooking mortality rates are around 4-6 % for flies and lures , respectively, to somewhere around 25% for bait-caught resident trout. However, some of the better studies that have not relied on caged trout have resulted in considerably lower loss rates than these averages. For example on Yellowstone cutthroat in Yellowstone National Park, an â€œun-cagedâ€� estimate of hooking mortality was about 0.3% and in the case of wild, uncaged rainbow trout caught with bait and released, the estimate was 16%. The estimate for bait fishing in a steelhead or chinook stream are considered much lower (e.g. 5% or less for Steelhead).
In most years, the dates you selected would align with a peak in steelheadmovement up the South Fork Clearwater River. However, the warmer weather we are experiencing this winter has got the steelhead moving early. In fact, basedon the number of PIT tagged steelhead we aredetectingmoving up theSouth Fork Clearwater, I would say that the peak in movement is probably occurring right now.Fishing shouldstill be good in mid-March, but the steelhead should be distributed more throughout the drainage.
Daily bag limits can be found on page 45 of our 2013 - 2015 Fishing Rules booklet. In 2014, we did an emergency bag limit reduction be cause we were going to be short of brood fish returning to Dworshak and Clearwater Fish Hatcheries. That's probably where the confusion started. 2015 will be a better return year and the daily bag limit reverted back to those in the rule booklet - 3 per day and 9 in possession in the Clearwater River drainage open to fishing.
Idaho's license fees are set by legislation.The two licenses (3 Day Salmon/Steelhead and the Daily Fishing) are different types of licenses and have different fees as per the Idaho Code 36-416. Therefore, the daily fishing license purchased for two days (no steelhead permit)would be the $12.75 for the first day and $6.00 for each additional consecutive day.