Fall steelhead fishing season is about to begin in the Salmon area. There have been a few hard-core fishermen on the river, but not many fish stories yet. Arrival of the fall steelhead migration seems to be a little late, but I never expect many fish before the middle of October. Usually during the third week of October steelhead arrive in the Salmon area in reasonable numbers. There are now a few stories of steelhead beginning to circulate, but I expect that the upcoming week will see a considerable increase in success rate. We expect three or four weeks of steelhead fishing now, before slush ice begins to flow. In some years, we can fish til Thanksgiving or later before ice comes, but by mid-November fishing becomes day-to-day.
There has been quite a bit of talk that the steelhead count at the last dam is low this year–though there are supposed to be a larger proportion of larger, two-year, fish. That would be consistent with the loss of one-year fish on last year’s outrun. There was a hot period in June last year that apparently affected the salmon up-run, and maybe it impacted the steelhead out-run.
Dam counts don’t tell the whole story about steelhead fishing. I am just as concerned about migration conditions. Warm water in the early fall can delay fish coming into the Snake River. Cold water later in the fall can stall out some of the migration downstream of Salmon. We can have pretty good fishing in the Salmon area even in low-count years if migration conditions are right–and poor fishing in high-count years if conditions are wrong.
Fall steelhead fishing usually is more consistent from day to day in the Salmon area than spring fishing. Weather changes can disrupt the catch rate, either by the river getting muddy from a rain, or by a significant change in river temperature or level, but once fish arrive in the Salmon area, fishing success is usually fairly consistent.