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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Steelheaders needed to ‘tube’ SF Clearwater spawners

Volunteers catch steelhead in the South Fork Clearwater River and put them into tubes for transfer to a hatchery. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)
Volunteers catch steelhead in the South Fork Clearwater River and put them into tubes for transfer to a hatchery. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

FISHING -- Angler skills are in demand to on the South Fork of the Clearwater River, where Idaho Fish and Game officials want young steelhead released into the South Fork of the Clearwater River to be from parents taken from that river.

Anglers can help by volunteering to catch local spawners to fill nearby hatcheries.

"Anglers catch a fish, and then place the live fish into a perforated section of PVC pipe provided by Fish and Game," says Roger Phillips, department spokesman.

"They return the pipe to the river and tether it, and then Fish and Game crews retrieve the fish and put it into a tanker truck that will deliver the steelhead to the hatcheries."

Fish and Game is distributing the PVC pipes at popular fishing holes along the South Fork from late February through March, the most popular times for fishing the river.

Steelhead donated by anglers are not counted against the angler’s bag limit. 

The program started in 2010 in order to develop a “localized broodstock” unique to the South Fork of the Clearwater. With help from anglers, a portion of the broodstock has come directly from the South Fork.

Last year a record 350 fish were collected, which produced about a million smolts for release.

Here's more info from IFG:

This year, Fish and Game is hoping anglers can provide about 600 adults, which would meet the complete brood needs at Clearwater Fish Hatchery and Dworshak National Fish Hatchery for smolts released into the South Fork Clearwater.  The South Fork has no fish trap or weir, so the department is relying solely on anglers to get the spawners.

“Anglers are a huge part of this,” said Joe DuPont, fisheries manager for the Clearwater Region. “They are working with us for a common goal.”

In years past, spawners were collected at the Dworshak Hatchery trap on North Fork Clearwater River. Research has shown that steelhead are highly adaptable, and young hatchery steelhead smolts tend to survive and return as adults at a higher rate when their parents come from the exact stream where the young fish are released.

If that proves true on the South Fork, using localized broodstock could mean more adult steelhead returning for anglers, even with the same number of smolts released.

Anglers have embraced the opportunity to help improve a popular steelhead fishery.

“The public loves it,” DuPont said. “People are planning their trips around catching fish for the local broodstock program.”

The Clearwater River system produces some of the Northwest’s most prized steelhead. The “B” run fish average about 12 pounds and have been known to exceed 20 pounds. Spring is the most popular time to fish the South Fork as the large fish move through the relatively small river where there are dozens of miles of easily accessible bank fishing.

For more information about the program, call (208) 799-5010.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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