Steelhead anglers fishing in the Clearwater River may need to sharpen their skills on identifying steelhead and coho salmon, Idaho fish and game managers advised.
Coho salmon are expected to appear in the Clearwater River this fall and are easy to mistake for steelhead. Idaho has no season for coho salmon.
The easiest way to tell the two apart is by the tail fin. On a steelhead, black spots are distributed throughout the tail fin. On the coho, spots appear only the upper lobe of the fin, if at all.
The anal fin, located on the underside of the fish, is another identifier. On a steelhead, the trailing edge of the fin lines up perpendicular to the fish’s body. The trailing edge of the fin on a coho slants away toward the body.
With either fish, if it has an adipose fin it should be released. Anglers can keep only hatchery steelhead, which have had the small fleshy fin clipped off as juveniles. Most Clearwater coho will have intact adipose fins.
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