Steelhead Migration Begins At Idaho Power Hatchery


By Paul Johnson

BOISE, Idaho – Drivers are hauling steelhead smolts from Idaho Power’s Niagara Springs Fish Hatchery south of Wendell to various locations in Idaho from now through mid-April. Drivers will start by hauling steelhead to the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam. Additional releases will take place in the Pahsimeroi and Little Salmon rivers.
By the time they are finished, trucks will have transported about 1.8 million smolts to release locations. The 8- to 9-inch-long fish came to Niagara Springs nearly a year ago as fry. The clear, warm (58oF) spring water feeding Niagara Springs provides ideal conditions for the young fish. For the trip, however, they are placed into chilled water (about 44o F) that more closely matches the temperature of the river where they will be released.

Smolts released at Hells Canyon navigate four dams on the lower Snake River and four more on the Columbia, plus various predators and other hazards during their 570-mile journey to the ocean.

There, they will spend a year or two growing into adulthood – and into a potential quarry for anglers.

Some of the adult steelhead that survive the return trip up the Columbia and Snake rivers will be captured in Idaho Power’s fish trap at Hells Canyon Dam and trucked to the nearby Oxbow Fish Hatchery where they are artificially spawned. Fish that return to the Pahsimeroi River are captured and spawned at the Idaho Power hatchery there. The eggs are then taken to Niagara Springs to begin the cycle again.

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