Columbia River Steelhead
This steelhead made its way up the Columbia River and on to the Deschutes River, in Oregon (photo: Chad Shmukler).

Last week, officials again cut the expected returns of B-run steelhead. The current forecasted number of B-run steelhead (steelhead over 31 inches) is now only 10,700 fish, which represents only around one-third of the originally expected 31,600 fish. Only around 2,500 of the currently forecasted returning fish are expected to be wild.

In response to the reduced forecast, officials in Idaho have cut the steelhead bag limits on the Clearwater River and its tributaries accordingly. The Clearwater is the primary destination of most B-run steelhead entering the Columbia. Normally, anglers are permitted to take three steelhead per day. This year, however, anglers will be permitted to take only one steelhead per day.

Lowering bag limits may be an important step for hatcheries to insure they are able to meet their collection goals for brood stock. According to an article in The Missoulan, in 1994 -- the last time returns were this low -- officials failed to cut bag limits and as a result failed to meet their collection goals.

Forecast cuts are not limited to B-run steelhead. Forecast returns for A-run steelhead (those less than 31 inches) were also cut, though not as drastically. Returns of A-run steelhead are now forecasted at 213,400, down from the original forecast of 291,000.