World-Class Thrills: Idaho Steelhead

Posted by Kevin Hughes on Monday, June 6th, 2011 at 3:05pm.

Idaho Snake RiverOne of the many reasons for looking into Idaho real estate is the wonderful fishing that is available there.  Outdoor sports are a favorite pastime and are a favorite of Idaho residents and are generally appealing to anyone looking to live there or purchase a second home there.

Among the many sport fish that live in Idaho waters is the Steelhead Trout, a premier game fish.  The Steelhead is a Rainbow trout that is anadromous, living a portion of their life in fresh water streams and rivers and another portion in the ocean.  They live 3-6 years, with the first 2-3 years of their life in the fresh water followed by 1-2 years at sea. Idaho’s Steelhead population lives in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater Rivers, and make their way to the ocean via the Columbia River.

There are two basic groups of Steelhead in Idaho.  Fish in one group stay to sea one year and return in the 4-6 pound range, with a length near two feet.  This group tends to live in the Snake and Salmon Rivers. The other group of fish stay at sea for an extra year and return in the 10-13 pound range with a length over 30 inches and are predominately in the Clearwater River. Occasionally some fish will remain at sea for a longer period accounting for fish that are in excess of twenty pounds.

Steelhead Trout are related to the various species of pacific salmon.  Other trout are in a grouping that includes Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon, or a grouping named chars, including the Eastern Brook Trout.

Steelhead Trout are classified as endangered or threatened, depending on the river where they spawn.  As a result, there are strict rules for Idaho fisherman, including the rule that wild steelhead must be released and not be kept.  There is a large Steelhead stocking program and those stocked fish are marked by clipping the adipose fin on the back of the trout – they may be kept within bagging limits.  Many other rules are in place to protect the Steelhead population.  For example, only barbless hooks of a limited size may be used so that fish who are caught and released are more likely to 

Snake River DamThe installation of dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries has made it difficult for salmon and Steelhead to return upriver on their spawning runs.  Ladders installed at the dams have alleviated some of this problem.  In the last decade the number of returning Steelhead through the Bonneville Dam was from 300,000 to 600,000.  There is no evidence that these numbers are further diminishing.

Anyone looking for a mountain retreat would be wise to consider Boise real estate, Eagle real estate, Nampa real estate or any of the other towns in the southwestern portion of the state.  These are all prime areas for Idaho properties that are near prime Steelhead fishing waters. 

Kevin Hughes

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