Tag Archives: steelhead

U.S. House Passes Senate’s Sea Lion Bill; Next Stop: White House

The U.S. House today passed the Senate’s Columbia sea lion bill and it now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature, according to Northwest lawmakers.

A SEA LION LOAFS ON AN ASTORIA DOCK. (BENJAMIN STANDFORD, NOAA-FISHERIES)

The bipartisan Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, which gives states and tribes more leeway to manage the predatory pinnipeds feasting on ESA-listed Chinook and steelhead as well as other stocks in the river and its tributaries, was approved by unanimous consent, just as it was in the upper chamber last week.

“I suspect many would wish the times were different and this legislation wasn’t necessary,” said Jaime Pinkham, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “But the reality is that this legislation has become necessary. Tribal and state fisheries co-managers collaborated to explore and implement alternatives for over a decade and the imbalance shifted the greatest risks to the salmon and steelhead, and we remember how the story ended at Ballard Locks. I’m grateful Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to give us the local flexibility to protect the tribal treaty resources we share with others in the Columbia and Willamette rivers.”

S.3119, as the bill is known, was cosponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jim Risch (R-ID).

“Today’s passage of our bill to control sea lions was a hard-fought victory – it’s a personal victory for each of us who treasure our Northwest salmon runs and want to see them preserved for generations to come,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3) in a joint press release with Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-5). “I’m grateful for the partnership of my colleague Kurt Schrader, and for Senators Risch and Cantwell for shepherding this through the Senate. I’m so pleased we are able to give Northwest fish managers this critical tool to help save our salmon and steelhead runs.”

Herrera Beutler, a Republican, and Schrader, a Democrat, represent communities on either side of the Lower Columbia.

Schrader said it was a problem he’d worked on since first coming to Congress.

“Ratepayers and my constituents are paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually towards the largest mitigation program in the country for threatened and endangered salmon. These sea lions, whose population has become totally inconsistent with their historic range, have been undoing all of that work by feasting on the endangered species. Our legislation will provide a great step forward in eliminating this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling to survive once and for all,” he said in a press release.

In another quickly issued press release, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Yakima Valley) applauded the “bipartisan effort to improve management of pinnipeds threatening salmon” in both chambers of Congress.

“We really appreciate our state’s Congressional delegation’s leadership and support to pass this legislation,” added Nate Pamplin, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s policy director. “The sea lion population in the Lower Columbia River has increased dramatically in recent years, presenting a greater threat to wild salmon and steelhead runs than ever before.”

He said the bill, which had widespread support not just in the aisles of Congress but among stakeholders, would “provide us and co-managers with the tools needed to protect these vulnerable fish populations.”

Rodmaker Gary Loomis of Coastal Conservation Association said “CCA was proud to be part of this coalition effort and is thankful of the years of efforts by our members in support of this legislation.”

The news actually came as state salmon managers and sportfishing industry officials were meeting in Clackamas to review the 2019 Columbia spring Chinook forecast, which is roughly just one-half of the 10-year average.

That is due in part to very poor ocean conditions in recent years, but in 2014, the loss of 40 percent of the year’s first Columbia salmon run — an estimated 104,333 fish — was attributed to sea lion predation.

So when the bill came before federal lawmakers in Washington DC this afternoon, NSIA’s Liz Hamilton says that ODFW staffers paused the run forecast meeting to watch on the big screen.

“Applause all around,” she said of the room’s reaction to the House’s move, “combined with optimism for the future of Willamette wild winter steelhead and hope for other stocks deeply impacted by pinniped predation, including sturgeon.”

Earlier this fall federal overseers granted ODFW a permit to remove up to 93 sea lions around Willamette Falls after state officials estimated that there was a 90 percent chance one of the Oregon trib’s steelhead runs would go extinct if nothing was done.

The states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho have had federal permission to remove specific animals gathered at Bonneville Dam since March 2008.

This bill, which amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five years, extends that authority to the Yakama, Nez Perce, Umatilla and Warm Springs Tribes and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

It allows for the lethal removal of sea lions in the Columbia from the dam down to River Mile 112 and upstream to McNary Dam, as well as in the river’s tributaries with ESA-listed salmonids.

SW WA Fishing Report (12-10-18)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 3 bank anglers released 1 coho.

Skamokawa Creek – No anglers sampled.

Elochoman River – 35 bank anglers kept 5 steelhead and released 7 coho jacks.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Mill Creek – 1 bank angler had no catch.

Germany Creek – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 5 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  12 bank rods released 1 coho jack.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 691 coho adults, 273 coho jacks, 26 cutthroat trout, three fall Chinook adults and four summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released 106 coho adults and 45 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle and they released 179 coho adults, 61 coho jacks and one cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released 34 coho adults and 44 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood and they released 189 coho adults, 119 coho jacks, one fall Chinook adult and five cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,740 cubic feet per second on Monday, Dec. 3. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 49.8 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – 8 bank anglers had no catch.  1 boat/2 rods released 2 coho.

Lewis River – 12 bank rods had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 15 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Salmon Creek – 31 bank anglers had no catch.

Wind River – No anglers sampled.

Klickitat River –No anglers sampled.

Idaho Steelheading Will Remain Open, Outside Of Salmon, SF Clearwater Stretches

THE FOLLOWING IS AN IDFG PRESS RELEASE

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Friday, Dec. 7 approved an agreement to keep most steelhead seasons open, but steelhead fishing in two areas will close effective 11:59 p.m. Dec. 7, 2018.

THE NORTH FORK CLEARWATER IS AMONG THE AREAS THAT WILL REMAIN OPEN FOR STEELHEAD FISHING IN IDAHO AFTER PARTIES REACHED A SETTLEMENT TO STAVE OFF A FEDERAL LAWSUIT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Closures include:

  • The Main Salmon River between Warren Creek and the Copper Mine Boat Ramp.
  • South Fork of Clearwater River upstream of the Mount Idaho Grade Bridge. (See maps below)

The commission also acted to continue the one steelhead daily bag limit through the end of 2018 and into the 2019 spring season.

“I’m glad our anglers and outfitters can continue steelhead fishing,” Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said. “It’s unfortunate that a delay in receiving federal authorization for our recreational steelhead fisheries created contention and hardship for river communities and anglers. This resolution achieves the commission’s objective to limit impacts to steelhead fishing as much as possible while we remain focused on finally receiving federal approval of our steelhead fishery plan for the long term.”

The continuance of steelhead fishing results from an agreement between Fish and Game, the Idaho River Community Alliance, Inc. and five groups that threatened to sue Idaho officials over the lack of federal authorization for steelhead fishing in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater River systems.

Moore said he appreciates various parties working together, and commended Idaho Rivers United for dropping its involvement in a potential lawsuit and helping forge the agreement among the various groups.

The agreement is in effect until the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approves Idaho’s steelhead fisheries plan under the Endangered Species Act, or March 15, 2019, whichever date is earlier.

As part of the agreement, members of the Idaho River Community Alliance, Inc. will voluntarily take a few additional measures when steelhead fishing. These measures are separate from the commission’s decision, and they are not Fish and Game rules.

Idaho sought renewal in 2010 for an expiring NMFS authorization for wild steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act that could potentially be harmed during Idaho fisheries for hatchery steelhead. NMFS’ permitting backlog delayed approval for years, but Idaho steelhead fishing seasons continued with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s (which NMFS is within) knowledge and consistent with Fish and Game’s submitted plan.

Earlier this year, NOAA began reviewing the plan, and an updated plan is available for a  public comment through Dec. 13, 2018. Fish and Game expects NMFS approval of its plan later this winter.

In October, a group of six organizations threatened a lawsuit over Fish and Game’s lack of formal federal authorization from NMFS. To avoid the potential for court-ordered changes and payment of these organizations’ legal costs, Fish and Game commissioners voted on November 14 to suspend the most steelhead fishing effective at the end of Dec. 7. That is the earliest day the organizations could file a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act, but that suspension is now voided except in the new closure areas.

Salmon River closure

_salmonriver_closure

Creative Commons Licence
IDFG

South Fork Clearwater River closure

steelhead_clearwater_closure

Creative Commons Licence
IDFG

 

Idaho Fish Commission To Meet On Steelhead Season This Evening

Idaho steelhead season is on the agenda of an unexpected Fish and Game Commission teleconference set for tonight, just hours before a fishing closure is otherwise set to go into effect.

What does that mean?

IDAHO STEELHEADERS WILL BE PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION TONIGHT TO FIND OUT IF THEY CAN DROP THEIR LINES INTO ANY RIVERS TOMORROW, OR IF THE PENDING CLOSURE REMAINS IN PLACE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Whatever you want to read into it” is the official word from IDFG spokesman Roger Phillips in Boise.

However, outdoor reporter Eric Barker at the Lewiston Tribune who has been doing an excellent job covering the situation reports that state officials, environmental groups that threatened the state with a federal lawsuit if it didn’t close the season, and the newly formed Idaho River Community Alliance of anglers and others were discussing the situation yesterday “in an effort to reach a settlement.”

The agenda for the 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time, 6:30 p.m. Pacific time meeting is stamped with the words “Action Item” in red which suggests that the seven-member commission will be voting on something.

In mid-November, the commission was forced to suspend the fishery starting Dec. 8 because of the state’s lack of a NMFS permit to hold steelhead season. IDFG long ago applied for a new one, but as the feds worked on other priorities it left Idaho vulnerable to a lawsuit, which Wild Fish Conservancy and five other groups took advantage of.

One, Idaho Rivers United, has subsequently backed out of the group, saying its goal of getting NMFS to start working on the fisheries permit had been accomplished. The comment period on that has now been extended from yesterday to Dec. 13.

Whatever decision the commission makes this evening, Phillips says he plans to send out a press release right after that occurs.

Meanwhile, IRCA this morning reported on its Facebook page that anglers and boats have already begun showing in Riggins for a planned Saturday protest.

SW WA Fishing Report (12-5-18)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

December 4, 2018

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 9 bank anglers released 2 steelhead.

Skamokawa Creek – No anglers sampled.

Elochoman River – 38 bank anglers kept 6 steelhead and released 4 steelhead, 2 coho and 11 coho jacks.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Abernathy Creek – 4 bank anglers had no catch.

Mill Creek – No anglers sampled.

Germany Creek – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 14 bank rods kept 1 coho jack and released 1 steelhead.

Above the I-5 Br:  6 bank rods had no catch.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 691 coho adults, 273 coho jacks, 26 cutthroat trout, three fall Chinook adults and four summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released 106 coho adults and 45 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle and they released 179 coho adults, 61 coho jacks and one cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released 34 coho adults and 44 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood and they released 189 coho adults, 119 coho jacks, one fall Chinook adult and five cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 4,740 cubic feet per second on Monday, Dec. 3. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 49.8 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – No anglers sampled.

Lewis River – 2 bank anglers had no catch. 2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 7 bank anglers kept 1 coho.  1 boat/2 rods had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 41 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Wind River – No anglers sampled.

Klickitat River –No anglers sampled.

SW WA Fishing Report (11-28-18)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 4 bank anglers released 4 coho and 3 coho jacks.  1 boat/3 rods released 3 coho.

Skamokawa Creek – No anglers sampled.

Elochoman River – 3 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead, 1 coho jack and released 1 steelhead and 1 coho jack.

Abernathy Creek – No anglers sampled.

Mill Creek – No anglers sampled.

Germany Creek – No anglers sampled.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 8 bank rods had no catch.  2 boats/5 rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  4 bank rods had no catch.  2 boats/4 rods released 2 coho.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 599 coho adults, 528 coho jacks, 63 cutthroat trout, three fall Chinook adults, one fall Chinook jack and three summer-run steelhead adults during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released 89 coho adults and 26 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle and they released 269 coho adults, 292 coho jacks and two cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

Tacoma Power released 205 coho adults, 293 coho jacks, one fall Chinook jack and seven cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,540 cubic feet per second on Monday, Nov. 26. Water visibility is 12 feet and the water temperature is 51.8 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility

Kalama River – 24 bank anglers had no catch.

Lewis River – No anglers sampled.

East Fork Lewis River – 6 bank anglers had no catch.

Salmon Creek – 15 bank anglers had no catch.

Wind River – No anglers sampled.

Klickitat River –No anglers sampled.

Free Fishing, Big Broodstockers On Tap For NW Sportsmen Who #OptOutside

Northwest fishery managers are trying to lure anglers to the water with a mix of just-released lunker rainbows and free days this holiday weekend.

Ahead of Black Friday, both Oregon and Washington have been busy stocking lakes with trout from 15 inches to a whopping 15 pounds, and the Beaver State is also waiving license fees for fishing, crabbing and clamming that day and Saturday.

DUSTIN SHARPE OF SALEM SHOWS OFF A 12-POUND BROODSTOCK RAINBOW CAUGHT EARLY IN 2009 AT WALTER WIRTH LAKE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

ODFW reports that it has released 400 broodstockers from 5 to 15 pounds at Blue Lake (Fairview), Huddleston Pond (Willamina), Junction City Pond, Sheridan Pond, Timber Linn Pond (Albany) and Walter Wirth Lake (Salem) over the past two weeks.

Timber Linn and Walter Wirth were also on the receiving end of a mess of 1-pounders, as were Canby, Cottage Grove, Junction City, Mt. Hood (Gresham) and West Salish (Fairview) Ponds.

If you prefer clams, Friday and Saturday evenings will see minus tides on Yaquina and other bays. Just remember that Clatsop County beaches are closed for razor clams until next March and that crabbing is closed from Cape Blanco to California, but open inside bays up the rest of the coast.

North of the Columbia, WDFW was releasing trout from 15 inches to 3 pounds at American, Battle Ground, Black, Kress, Long, Offut, Rowland and Tanwax Lakes and Cases, Fort Borst, Klineline, North Elton and South Lewis County Park Ponds specifically for the day after Thanksgiving.

Other lakes including Beaver in Sammamish will receive a fresh slug of fish too for the weekend.

For details, see WDFW’s weekly stocking report.

And remember that three Washington ocean beaches will see clam digs starting tomorrow.

Yes, the weather forecast could be better — rain pretty much a guarantee west of the Cascades in both states on Friday and clearing on Saturday — but Thanksgiving storms will actually bring much-needed precipitation to the region.

The USGS daily streamflow maps for both states looks like somebody spilled cranberry sauce all over them so many rivers are running at flows below the 10th percentile for this time of year.

(USGS)

Somewhere on the Facebookopshere I saw that the Alsea this morning set a new low for the date when it briefly slipped below 90 cubic feet per second overnight.

Ninety cfs in November?!?!

In days of yore, Turkey Day marked the kickoff of winter steelhead saeson, and on a few select rivers catching a chromer is still possible, namely those around Forks, Willapa Bay and the Skykomish.

In Oregon, ODFW points to the Alsea, John Day and Rogue, but other options include the Ana, Crooked, Klamath and Metolius for a mix of trout and whitefish.

Yes, it’ll be tempting to just ooze onto the couch and digest while it rains outside and the Apple Cup and Civil War rage on, but there’s plenty to do this long weekend if you optoutside, as the hash tag goes.

SW WA Fishing Report (Thanksgiving Eve 2018)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Grays River – 11 bank anglers released 1 steelhead.

Skamokawa Creek – No anglers sampled.

Elochoman River – 10 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead and released 1 steelhead and 1 coho jack.

Abernathy Creek – No anglers sampled.

Mill Creek – No anglers sampled.

Germany Creek – No anglers sampled.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 29 bank rods had no catch.

Above the I-5 Br:  8 bank rods released 2 Chinook adults and 2 coho jacks.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 457 coho adults, 727 coho jacks, 142 cutthroat trout, eight fall Chinook adults, three fall Chinook jacks and eight summer-run steelhead adults during six days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released 26 coho adults and 45 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle, and they released 54 coho adults, 77 coho jacks and one cutthroat trout at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood.

Tacoma Power released 84 coho adults, 285 coho jacks, two fall Chinook adults, two fall Chinook jacks and nine cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, and they released 119 coho adults, 275 coho jacks and five cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,540 cubic feet per second on Monday, Nov. 19. Water visibility is 12 feet and the water temperature is 51.4 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – 35 bank anglers released 3 Chinook adults.

Lewis River – 5 bank rods had no catch.  1 boat/1 rod had no catch.

East Fork Lewis River – 4 bank anglers released 1 coho adult.

Salmon Creek – No anglers sampled.

Wind River – No anglers sampled.

Klickitat River – 11 bank anglers kept 1 coho adult and released 1 Chinook adult and 1 coho adult.

 

Snake On WA-ID Border To Stay Open For Steelhead To WA-Licensed Anglers

With a federal fisheries permit in hand, a WDFW steelhead manager says Washington-licensed anglers will be able to continue to fish the Snake shared with Idaho after IDFG announced their season would shut down in early December due to a lawsuit threat.

WASHINGTON ANGLERS AS WELL AS IDAHO FISHERMEN WITH WDFW FISHING LICENSES AND CATCH CARDS WILL STILL BE ABLE TO FISH THE SHARED SNAKE FOR HATCHERY STEELHEAD LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT DURING A RECENT DERBY. (BRIAN LULL)

“We’re not going to close because we have ESA coverage and a Fisheries Management and Evaluation Plan,” said Chris Donley, the state regional fisheries manager in Spokane, this morning.

That plan was approved back in 2011 by the National Marine Fisheries Service and WDFW’s had federal coverage since 2007.

Donley said that Idaho anglers who have a Washington-issued fishing license and steelhead catch card can fish the shared Snake under that authorization.

He was quick to add that WDFW did not view this as a chance to make money off of Gem State guides and anglers who won’t be allowed to fish the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake after Dec. 7.

That’s because Idaho’s FMEP for steelhead and Chinook fisheries lapsed in 2010 and NMFS has yet to issue a new one, though a draft is out for comment now and could be in place by early next year.

It’s that lack of coverage — rather than this year’s low return of A- and B-runs — that allowed six organizations, including the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall and The Conservation Angler of Portland, to threaten IDFG with a lawsuit last month.

The groups said that if the agency didn’t close steelheading in Gem State waters by Dec. 9 to prevent harm to Endangered Species Act-listed wild steelhead, they would take the state to federal court.

IDFG balked at a proposed settlement because of the conditions it would have imposed — bait and boat bans, barbless hook restrictions, and a Jan. 1 closure — and instead of spending money on court costs and lawyers fees, the Fish and Game Commission voted 6-0 to shut fishing down.

Challenging it in court might have cost $50,000, according to a state attorney general’s estimate included in a Lewiston Tribune article out this morning.

Idaho’s decision still drew scathing comments from guide Kyle Jones, who on Facebook vented his “utter frustration” with the state’s lack of a permit and wondered how he was going to make up $20,000 in lost winter revenue.

This is practically the same play that WFC et al made in 2014 in Puget Sound with the Chambers Creek early winter steelhead program.

In that case it was the other piece of the regulatory puzzle, the lack of a federally approved hatchery genetic management plan covering fisheries over another ESA stock, that was the target of opportunity.

With seemingly ever-increasing listings throughout Western salmon and steelhead country, the paperwork has piled up on NMFS’s collective desk, and between that and other work it’s assigned, progress approving FMEPs and HGMPs has been slow, leaving state fishery agencies vulnerable to lawsuits.

According to Lewiston Tribune outdoor reporter Eric Barker’s article, David Moskowitz of The Conservation Angler said closing the fishery would have benefits, Idaho’s rejection of the deal offered was more social than biological, and the threat of litigation was “meant to send a signal to everyone who is supposed to take care of these fish.”

For WDFW’s Donley, summer steelhead returning to the Inland Northwest have been all but handled with kid gloves from the time the fish entered the Columbia at Buoy 10, with reduced limits, night and thermal refuge closures — even full closures on the mainstem — all the way upstream.

Absent a conservation concern, he’s left wondering what the organizations’ aim is.

“How many more wild fish does this create when we have so many hydropower, habitat and hatchery issues to overcome?” Donley says.

IDFG Director Blasts Groups’ Steelhead Lawsuit Threat, Agency Details What Closure Means

Idaho steelhead managers are providing more details on today’s decision by the Fish and Game Commission to suspend fishing for the species as of midnight, Dec. 9.

DARKNESS IS FALLING ON STEELHEADING IN IDAHO — THESE TWO ANGLERS WERE FISHING THE CLEARWATER AT LEWISTON — DUE TO THREAT OF A LAWSUIT. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The citizen panel made the move this morning under threat of a federal lawsuit from six organizations, three from out of state, who told IDFG in October they would sue over the agency’s lack of a federal authorization to hold fisheries over ESA-listed stocks unless the agency closed the season.

Officials say that an attempt to settle the dispute was unsuccessful after the groups asked for bait and boat bans, barbless hook restrictions, a prohibition on removing wild steelhead completely out of the water and closing steelhead fishing after Jan. 1.

IDFG claimed that deal would have made for “a disproportionate loss of angling opportunity for a particular user group, while preserving fishing opportunity for another.”

In a nearly 700-word letter to Idaho steelheaders, outgoing Director Virgil Moore explained that the commission didn’t want to go to U.S. District Court, lose because NMFS “dropped the ball on permit renewal” and waste sportsmen’s dollars to “pay bills for advocacy-group lawyers instead of conservation”

“Having been involved in steelhead management as a professional biologist, and being a steelhead fisherman for over 40 years, I’m well aware how important steelhead fishing is to Idaho anglers and local economies,” he wrote. “The loss of that opportunity, even temporarily, due to a lawsuit and unprocessed permit is truly regrettable.”

RETIRING IDFG DIRECTOR VIRGIL MOORE DURING A 2015 UPLAND BIRD HUNTING TRIP. (IDFG)

The permit in question ran out in 2010 but IDFG has been able to hold seasons in subsequent falls and winters “in coordination with federal managers,” according to an FAQ staffers put together.

For fans of Idaho steelheading, this means two things:

Per IDFG, fishing for steelhead will be closed in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater, and it will be “illegal” to target them while seasons remain open on those rivers for whitefish, trout, sturgeon, etc.

As for the shared Snake, IDFG says “If Oregon and Washington continue their steelhead fisheries, anglers with a valid fishing license issued by Oregon or Washington may fish for steelhead consistent with the rules of those states.”

A WDFW official confirmed that.

“Short answer is we will keep fishing. Idaho anglers will be required to have a Washington or Oregon license if they are fishing for steelhead” on the shared Snake, said Chris Donley, the regional fisheries manager out of Spokane.

The six groups are using a page out of the same playbook some used in Washington in 2014, identifying an expired federal permit that provides cover for state fisheries over ESA-listed runs, then threatening a lawsuit.

In this case, they claim wild steelhead have been harmed during hatchery steelhead and Chinook fisheries.

Without the NMFS permit, the state is vulnerable to the suit from The Wild Fish Conservancy and Wild Salmon Rivers of Washington, The Conservation Angler of Portland, and Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater and Snake River Waterkeeper, all based in Idaho.

But in its FAQs, IDFG states, “Angling has minimal impacts to wild steelhead and the majority (~85%) of the 5,000 miles of wild steelhead spawning and rearing habitat is closed to fishing.”

The agency says that most impacts on the fish occur downriver and that catch-and-release of wild fish has a 3 percent mortality rate.

Even so, a C&R fishery on even clipped steelhead can’t be kept open because it would accrue impacts on wild fish without a permit to do so.

As for when that permit will arrive, IDFG says it will take “a few months” for the feds to take public comment and finalize biops and other documentation, but it “may be completed in time to reopen the spring steelhead fishery,” which runs into April.