Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Distribution and movement of steelhead and anglers in the Clearwater River, Idaho

August 12, 2019

Steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss is a species that is of high economic value that supports popular sport fisheries across the Pacific Northwest. The Clearwater River in Idaho provides a trophy steelhead fishery, and it is home to both wild- and hatchery-origin steelhead. To manage the fishery effectively, information is needed about the spatial and temporal overlap of wild and hatchery steelhead in the Clearwater River, as well as the activity of anglers. We conducted a radiotelemetry study to describe the distribution of steelhead and their final fate in the Clearwater River, and creel surveys were used to describe the distribution of anglers. In total, 289 wild (Potlatch River and Lochsa River) and hatchery (from Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and South Fork Clearwater River) steelhead were radio-tagged at Lower Granite Dam, 51 river kilometers (rkm) downstream from the mouth of the Clearwater River. Fish were monitored upon their entry into the Clearwater River by using mobile tracking surveys (boat and vehicle) and stationary antennas. The majority of wild and hatchery steelhead arrived in the Clearwater River in the fall with the exception of those from the Lochsa River, which arrived in the fall and following spring. Average daily movement of the fish was minimal (range = 0.3–4.7 km/d) and dependent on water temperature and flow. The fates of wild and hatchery steelhead varied. Fish returned to spawning grounds, were harvested by anglers (hatchery fish only), or had unknown fates. Both wild and hatchery steelhead returned at high rates to their natal tributaries and release locations. No straying was observed in either group; however, occasions when steelhead have overshot their natal tributaries and release locations were documented. Spatial and temporal overlap of the distributions of wild and hatchery steelhead was minimal. The distribution of anglers overlapped with that of hatchery steelhead in the fall, winter, and spring. The distributional overlap of anglers and wild steelhead was minimal and largely occurred in September in the lower Clearwater River. This suggests that the Clearwater River has a highly compartmentalized fishery and that current fishing regulations in the Clearwater River are providing for a diversity of angling opportunities while conserving wild steelhead and offering harvest of hatchery fish. The results from this study have important implications for the conservation and management of wild and hatchery steelhead.

Publication Year 2019
Title Distribution and movement of steelhead and anglers in the Clearwater River, Idaho
DOI 10.1002/nafm.10345
Authors Stacey F Feeken, Brett J. Bowersox, Marika E. Dobos, Matthew P. Corsi, Michael C. Quist, Timothy Copeland
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
Index ID 70223737
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle