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Hells Canyon Steelhead


Quillback

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Looks like much fun. I read that steelhead do not necessarily die after spawn and can go back to sea and return again. In places where you are allowed to fish them, do many anglers practice C & R?

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Yes they can return to the sea, these Hells Canyon fish are a long way from the sea and have to get by several dams to get back, so the chances of one returning are very, very slim. Fish from undammed coastal rivers have a much better chance of being return spawners.

The fish that is released is a wild spawned fish, they must be released by law, to spawn, you can tell by the intact adipose fin (they zoom in on it). Hatchery fish (adipose fin is clipped) can be kept by sports fishermen and they are also netted by tribal fishermen. F&G biologists encourage anglers to harvest hatchery fish as they don't want them spawning with wild fish and screwing up their genes (it's a complicated issue with many opinions, but basically that's the reason). And as long as the hatcheries receive enough eggs and milt to provide the next generation of hatchery fingerlings, then the excess can be harvested. I'm not 100% sure what Idaho's policy is on hatchery fish that have been spawned out at the hatchery, but in Washington State they are donated to foodbanks or the carcasses are used to suplement river nutrients, they are not released alive back into the river.

So, it's perfectly acceptable to keep a hatchery steelhead. Once they've been in the river a while they aren't the best table fare, but are good smoked.

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