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Steelhead Derby organizers clarify boundaries, rules for reborn event

The boundaries of the recently reborn Snake Clearwater steelhead derby have been tweaked to reflect current fishing regulations.

The Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce canceled the annual event in August after both Idaho and Washington closed steelhead harvest seasons because of a poor run.

Last week, the states restored limited catch-and-keep seasons and on Wednesday, the chamber announced it would hold the event Nov. 18-25 but with altered rules to reflect low fish numbers.

Harvest seasons were restored last Sunday following a late push by the fish. But bag limits were reduced to two hatchery steelhead per day on the Snake and Salmon rivers, and the states adopted special rules designed to protect the low number of the big B-run steelhead returning to Clearwater River hatcheries.

Anglers on the Clearwater River and its tributaries and on the Snake River north of Couse Creek are required to turn loose any steelhead that measure longer than 28 inches

The derby will avoid the Clearwater River altogether and will be held only on the Snake River. The chamber mistakenly said in a Wednesday news release the boundaries would stretch from Lower Granite Dam to Couse Creek.

On Thursday, the chamber corrected the boundaries to reflect the fact the Snake River is closed to steelhead retention from its mouth to the Idaho-Washington state line at Clarkston, near the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers.

The new boundary will allow derby anglers to enter fish caught in an area from the Idaho-Washington state line to Couse Creek, a distance of about 12 miles.

Because that stretch of river is under special rules requiring anglers to release steelhead longer than 28 inches, derby prizes won’t be allocated based on the biggest fish caught.

Instead, $50 will be awarded to the angler who catches the smallest steelhead each day, and two anglers who catch “mystery fish” – those that most closely match randomly selected weights – will win $100.

Each day, anglers who fail to catch a fish will be entered into a drawing. The daily winner will receive $50, with another $50 in the angler’s name being donated to a fish conservation project. Rogers Dodge of Lewiston, the title sponsor of the derby, will match each $50 donation.

At the end of the derby, the angler who catches the smallest fish of the week will win $500. Another angler randomly drawn from a pool of daily mystery fish prizes will win $700. The anglers who catch and register the first and last steelhead during the week of fishing will get $150 each.

The derby is sponsored by the chamber in partnership with Rogers Dodge of Lewiston. The chamber will donate a portion of the proceeds to a fish conservation project that will be matched with a donation from the auto dealership.

“We recognize the need to be conservative with the harvest and hope by removing ‘bigger is better’ and making the derby about family, fun and giving back will allow for an enjoyable experience for all participants and ensure the future of our fish for years to come,” chamber president Kristin Kemak said.

Blake Harrington, communications and events director for the chamber, said the rules were changed based on advice received from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

“We want to do some thing positive with it,” she said.

The derby will kick off Nov. 17 with opening ceremonies at the dealership, and fishing will occur Nov. 18-25.

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