At the 11th hour, last week, the disputing parties involved in Idaho’s decision to close its steelhead season came together to form an agreement, allowing the season to remain open. The conservation groups that were intending to sue Idaho Fish and Game, came to the understanding that a closure would have significant harm for the local communities that rely on steelhead fishing. Another factor leading to the agreement was Idaho Rivers United withdrawing from the coalition to sue Idaho Fish and Game.
Under the agreement, Idaho anglers can target steelhead throughout Idaho’s waterways, except in two stretches of water: the Main Salmon River between Warren Creek and the Copper Mine Boat Ramp and the South Fork of Clearwater River upstream of the Mount Idaho Grade Bridge.
The agreement is not as comprising as some of the conservation groups would have hoped, but it effectively brought both sides of the issue together and prevented the potentially devastating effects of the closure. Additionally, through the agreement, outfitters and guides associated with the Idaho Community River Alliance will voluntarily adopt several fishing-related measures: use only single, barbless hooks on plugs and lures; require their clients to keep the first hatchery fish they catch; and to release wild fish without removing them from the water.
At this time, the agreement successfully brought the two sides together and facilitated the continuation of the steelhead season, which should be celebrated. But the longterm health of Idaho’s steelhead fishery discussion should remain a priority for all parties involved. Steelhead returns in Idaho are nearing alarmingly low levels, so the long-term preservation efforts cannot diminish.
For more on Idaho’s steelhead season remaining open, check out this article.