Spring is when hatchery steelhead concentrate in smaller tributary rivers, making it a great time to catch them, and some rivers remain open into May.
Recent angler surveys show catch rates to be 11 hours per fish caught on the Salmon River upstream of the East Fork, 17 hours per fish caught on the Little Salmon River, and 8 hours per fish caught on the South Fork Clearwater River, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Steelhead fishing is considered good any time catch rates are lower than 20 hours per fish caught, the agency said.
While the spring harvest season closes March 31 on the Salmon River from the Lake Creek Bridge to Long Tom Creek (three-quarters of a mile upstream from the Middle Fork Salmon River), anglers can continue fishing through April 30 on most other steelhead waters, except the Little Salmon River, which stays open until May 15.
Waters open through April 30:
- Snake River from the Washington state line at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers upstream to Hells Canyon Dam.
- Clearwater River's main stem and Middle Fork from its mouth upstream to Clear Creek.
- North Fork Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to Dworshak Dam.
- South Fork Clearwater River from its mouth upstream to the confluence of American and Red rivers.
- Salmon River from its mouth upstream to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery weir near Stanley. (Except the reach from the Lake Creek Bridge to Long Tom Creek, which closes March 31.)
Spring steelhead limits are three fish per day and nine in possession with no more than 20 fish for the season. Once limits are reached, the angler must stop fishing, even catch and release.
Steelhead anglers may use only barbless hooks, and may keep only hatchery steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin, as evidenced by a healed scar. All other steelhead must be released immediately.
See the current fishing rules for details. A 2013 fishing license and steelhead permit are needed to fish for steelhead.