Unfortunately, dams have made life too hard even for these magnificent fish. General seasons for ocean-run salmon have not been held since the late 1970s. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, tribes and conservation groups are waging a titanic battle to save anadromous salmon but, for now, runs are protected from sport fishing. Idaho still offers tremendous fishing for salmon of landlocked varieties in certain waters, however.
Steelhead runs have remained fishable, though the additional stress of drought years has brought numbers down in several recent fishing seasons. The last two good years of large spring runoffs have steelheaders looking forward to a resurgence of these runs. Wild steelhead are critical to the future of Idaho's runs and so must be returned to the water unharmed. Only hatchery steelhead, distinguished by clipped adipose fins, may be kept. Anglers interested in the how-tos of steelhead fishing, may find this on-line guide and the Steelhead and Salmon Fishing Reports useful.
Chinooks introduced into lakes such as Coeur d'Alene and Anderson Ranch where they feed on their abundant cousin, the kokanee salmon.
Kokanee are close relatives of sockeye salmon. They tend not to exceed a couple of pounds in most places. When the kokanee bite is on, the action can be hot, limits are usually generous and this fish is delicious. Most kokanee anglers concentrate on Anderson Ranch Reservoir east of Boise and Dworshak Reservoir in the north central part of Idaho.
Coho salmon do reasonably well in some cold lakes such as Cascade in central Idaho where they provide lively fishing and excellent eating.
Atlantic salmon were planted a long way from home in Deadwood Reservoir east of Boise with the same intent as chinook were planted in other lakes: they eat enough kokanee to keep that fish in check so it does not become stunted; and they are a joy to catch in their own right. No one was sure this transplant worked until a teenager caught an Atlantic salmon weighing more than 17 pounds at Deadwood in 1995.
Cumulative Chinook Salmon Hatchery Returns by Idaho Dept. Fish & Game|
Steelhead and Salmon dam counts