By RALPH BARTHOLDT
The opening of the Clearwater River catch-and-keep steelhead season began this week with an added bonus.
The season that almost didn’t happen because of low early steelhead returns has an added bonus because it coincides with an expanded coho season.
Anglers with a valid salmon permit are allowed to keep two coho daily, with six in possession and 10 for the season. The coho salmon season limit is in addition to the Chinook season limit. Because there are no wild coho in the system, coho salmon with or without an attached adipose fin can be harvested.
Coho salmon, once abundant in the Clearwater, were declared extinct in 1986, but the Nez Perce Tribe’s fishery program successfully reintroduced the sea-run salmon to the Lower Snake and Clearwater rivers.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, in conjunction with the tribe, opened the fishery three years ago. The season runs through Nov. 19, or until it is closed by Fish and Game based on catch rates.
Fishing will be allowed on the Clearwater, the North Fork Clearwater downstream of Dworshak Dam, and the Middle Fork Clearwater upstream to Clear Creek.
The coho fishery is relatively new, with the state record fish weighing in at 11 3/4 pounds, and there is no Idaho catch-and-release record.
Clearwater coho usually range in size from 8-12 pounds, according to Fish and Game.
“Weigh any fish you catch,” game department spokesman Roger Phillips said.
To submit a weight record, the fish must be weighed on a certified scale.
To submit a catch-and-release record, a photo of the fish with a tape showing the length of the fish in inches must be submitted. Follow Fish and Game’s submission guidelines.