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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Sports >  Outdoors

Out & About: Steelhead outlook grim in Snake system

OUTLOOK – Fishing for the normally reliable run of steelhead that return to the Snake, Salmon and Grande Ronde rivers could be tough this fall.

Counts of the A-run steelhead, which predominantly spend one year in the ocean, have been so low that regional fisheries managers dramatically scaled back their forecast.

Before the season began, managers predicted about 230,000 A-run steelhead destined for tributaries of the Snake River and the upper and middle sections of the Columbia River would swim past Bonneville Dam.

Now they expect only about 123,400 to make the trip. About half of those, or just less than 62,000, are expected to make it as far as Lower Granite Dam. The run is about 50 percent complete at Bonneville.

“What it looks like is pretty much a collapse of the one-salts,” said Ron Roler of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Vancouver, referring to the portion of the A-run that spends one year in the ocean. “Usually the A-run are smaller steelhead and the majority (of them) are one-salt fish, with some two-salts. The two-salts look fine, it’s the one-salts that are not showing up…”

“There is no getting around it, it’s bad,” said Alan Byrne of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Boise.

Both Byrne and Roler said it’s too early to say how the B-run is shaping up. Those fish that mostly spend two years in the ocean and largely return to the Clearwater Basin are just starting to show up at Bonneville Dam.

The reason for the plunge of the one-salts isn’t yet known, but the leading suspects are last year’s poor ocean and poor out-migration conditions.

The coastal regions of the northern Pacific Ocean were dominated by the “Blob” last summer, a mass of warm water that sapped the normally productive waters. The winter of 2014-15 also saw dismal snow accumulations and rivers throughout the Columbia Basin had below-normal runoff.

Roler noted that steelhead tend to go to areas beyond the footprint of the Blob, but he said it could have had an indirect effect by harming species lower on the food chain.

“It could be numerous different things that could affect them and maybe it was a conglomeration of all of that,” he said. “Last year was not a good year for out-migration and not a good year out in the ocean.”

BLM tapping illegal trail-builders

OUTBIKE – As recreation like mountain biking becomes ever more popular on public lands, federal agencies such as the BLM are being prodded to supply more access,” says a story by High Country News.

“To meet the needs of communities and quell illegal trail building, the BLM has begun to increase its partnerships with local mountain biking groups across the West.”

The efforts so far are mostly in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Texas.

“If you can work with the mountain biking community to really provide the type of experience they are seeking, they’re not going to want to spend their time and energy doing clandestine trail-building,” one official says

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