Record Idaho Sea-Run Coho Salmon

The fish is the first catch-and-release coho recognized by the state as a record for the species.

Jerry SMith measuring salmon
Jerry Smith measures his record coho prior to its release. Courtesy IDFG

Jerry Smith of Lewiston, Idaho made history on Nov. 13 when he caught, measured, and released a large coho or silver salmon. He was fishing the North Fork of Idaho’s Clearwater River (in the Clearwater National Forest), according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG).

Smith measured the 30-inch coho and registered it with IDFG. They declared his fish the state’s first record catch-and-release for the ocean-run species, although Idaho’s catch-and-release record program has been in effect for six years.

With Smith setting an Idaho record for coho, the state hopes that will set the stage for future catch-and-release records for cohos and other state fish species.

IDFG fisheries staff reminds anglers that during autumn, the state’s famed Clearwater River calls home several prized ocean-run, migrating gamefish. The species heading back to Idaho include steelhead (ocean-run rainbow trout), fall-run Chinook (king) salmon and coho (silver) salmon.

Anglers are advised by Idaho fisheries managers to carefully examine these state catches to distinguish the three species, as there are separate seasons and bag limits for each. Also, there can be some confusion identifying the different and large salmonid species, as they have similar body shapes, and can have similar colorations according to the time of year caught.

Idaho’s famed Clearwater River has been a storied spot for steelhead and salmon for many decades, since the wilderness area was discovered by Lewis and Clark in 1805.

The anadromous species enter the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean, migrating up through the Snake River and into the Clearwater River drainage for spawning. The fish migrate through several hundred miles of water. maneuvering around dams to reach their spawning areas.

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Before the building of dams in the Snake River, coho salmon migrating into the drainage for spawning annually numbered in the hundreds of thousands of fish. Coho population dropped to almost zero in the 1980s, but a hatchery program jump-started salmon again in the river system

Idaho anglers and state fisheries folks hope the best is yet to come for cohos and other migrating species to the Clearwater and other Northwest rivers.

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