I have a friend who shall remain nameless who took a few trips to Riggins this fall to steelhead fish and got skunked each time, then he went last week and limited out before noon.
We know the run is down this year, and the fishing has been pretty spotty. But suddenly, all of Idahos steelhead rivers turned on last week.
Since I am a certified armchair biologists (one of my many La-Z-Boy degrees), I think the reason goes something like this. Steelhead migrate into Idaho late summer and early fall. By late fall, they arrive at their wintering spots. Steelhead tend to winter in the main rivers before migrating into the tributaries to spawn in the spring. They usually settle into wintering areas about the same time the water turns frigid, which makes them sluggish and tough to catch.
Well, river temperatures last week ranged from a low of 39 at Lemhi to 53 degrees on the Snake. Thats warm for this time of year, which means fish may have settled down, got feisty and started biting the first thing that drifted by. Sure, its a theory, but its a plausible one.
The big question is will it last? If youve done much steelheading, you know the answer is probably no. Which begs the next question. Will it happen again? It probably will. After steelhead settle in for winter, they go on an off the bite for reasons only they understand.
But if youre there, you can catch a lot of fish if the river isnt frozen. The weather isnt as inviting as September and October, so that tends to keep some people away, but the steelhead are there.