Anglers can look forward to another promising steelhead season on the Columbia River and its tributaries this year, based on a forecast released recently by a team of state, federal and tribal biologists.
The report issued in March by the Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee forecasts a return of 391,000 upriver summer steelhead for the season that begins May 16 on the Columbia River below the Interstate 5 Bridge. TAC is comprised of state, federal and tribal biologists whose forecasts are used to set salmon and steelhead seasons and harvest guidelines on the Columbia River
“The summer steelhead season is one of our most stable fisheries,” said John North, manager of ODFW’s Columbia River Fisheries Program, who noted the 2011 forecast is in line with the 10-year average. “It is one of those fisheries where you can go fishing and enjoy good weather and a wide range of locations and fishing methods.”
The summer steelhead season also has the benefit of lower effort on the part of anglers.
“It’s not as popular as the spring salmon season so there is more opportunity to get out and have lots of river to yourself,” he said. “It’s low key and low pressure.”
The bulk of the forecast is for A-index hatchery steelhead, the earlier of two major runs. Out of the total upriver steelhead forecast, 312,000 are expected to be A-run hatchery fish, which typically range in size from 5-8 pounds each. The A-run fish typically show up in large numbers in the Portland area below the I-5 Bridge from the opening of steelhead season on May 16 through the end of June, according to Jimmy Watts, ODFW’s Columbia River assistant project leader. The B-index steelhead run, which is forecast at 54,000 fish, usually arrives a little later. B-index steelhead typically range from 8 to 12 pounds.
Watts, who supervises ODFW’s Columbia River fishing survey crews, says the best fishing for steelhead in the Portland area generally takes place through July. As steelhead numbers peak in July and August, the action moves upstream between the I-5 Bridge and Bonneville Dam. By September, a large portion of the run has crossed Bonneville and the fish are often found holding in the cooler waters of the mouths of the tributaries, including the Hood, Deschutes, John Day and Snake rivers. Above Bonneville, steelhead season opens June 16.
Watts noted that the summer steelhead fishery is one in which bank fishermen often do as well or even better than people in boats because steelhead are shallow water travelers and can be picked up near shore by fishing from the bank. Effective bank fishing techniques include plunking with Spin ‘n Glows, Corkies, shrimp and prawns and casting spinners. Boat fishing can also be effective by trolling or plunking with flatfish.
“There are a lot of fish and it’s easy to get to them,” he said. “It’s one of those things where if you’re sitting on the beach camping with your family, why not put out a couple of rods.”
Steelhead must be fin-clipped hatchery fish in order to be retained. Several species of wild steelhead are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species List and all wild steelhead must be released unharmed.