With only one week remaining in the Salmon River steelhead season, most anglers are reveling in what has been a truly memorable season. Nearly 4,000 fish have returned to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery and many more are expected to finish their journey over the next couple weeks. Due to high daytime temperatures and the resulting spring runoff, much of the river is off-color and even unfishable in spots. If freezing nighttime temperatures return to the region in the next week, we may see the water clear up allowing for a few more days of incomparable spring steelhead fishing.
There is no doubt about it; this has been a remarkable steelhead season. The return of sea-going rainbows has made for some lasting memories for many anglers and although some days were quite busy with fishermen on every stretch of the river, many days were nearly angler free with miles of river to be enjoyed. The A-run fish have returned in spectacular numbers and the B-runs, though only 40% of last year’s return, are still filtering up the river toward their spawning grounds. With the high, colored water, the fish will begin to migrate more quickly towards their nesting sites.
The weather forecast is spotty for the rest of April, as it often is, so river conditions will be hit and miss and will depend on the previous day’s temperatures and precipitation. As a result, anglers should consider using bright flies such as chartreuse, white, pink and yellow in leech patterns as well as egg imitations. Due to the muddy water conditions, try walking the river banks and peering into the shallows to find the steelhead that creep up the side of the river to avoid high river currents. Blind fishing will continue to be productive in many of the deep runs and pockets which have acted as refuges for travelling fish, but expect catch rates to be lower if the river remains cloudy.
Remember that the steelhead season closes at dark on April 30th so you only have 8 days left to enjoy the spring steelheading. Although there was speculation about extending the season, I recently spoke with an Idaho Department of Fish and Game employee who said that it is very unlikely. A few Chinook have been seen traveling over the dams and the IDFG is concerned that there may be accidental hooking if they allow the Steelhead season to continue. With the higher river flow, please remember to wear a wading belt as the currents have strengthened significantly. Good luck to all fishermen who visit the Salmon River over the next week – the journey is always an adventure!