Saving fish and restoring their home

Across Idaho, the Department of Fish and Game works with landowners and partner agencies to restore fish habitat. Habitat restoration can be as simple as planting a few trees, or as complicated as digging miles of new channel habitat that is complete with log jams, engineered riffles, and beaver dam analogs. These habitat restoration projects create better habitat for young fish to grow in, and for adult salmon and trout to spawn in.

Rainbow trout rescued

Rainbow trout rescued during fish salvage before habitat restoration project begins. Photo Credit: Kat Gillies-Rector

Coffer dam at construction site

Coffer dam at construction site. Photo credit: Windy Schoby

But to restore habitat, sometimes biologists have to dig up the old habitat. When that happens, they have to find and move the fish that live in those spots before work can begin. This process is called a “salvage”. Restoration salvages happen before projects begin, and throughout restoration work as project phases require new parts of the stream to be dewatered or dug up.

In some cases, construction workers create large dams in the area they plan to work in. This protects the rest of the stream during the construction phase. Fish biologists use electrofishing units or seine nets to remove fish from the work area, then that area is dewatered. In other cases, whole sections of stream could be rerouted, leaving a stream bed dry to allow excavation work to begin. Before the stream is completely dry, electrofishing crews will capture all the fish in that area and move them to a different part of the stream.

Construction of habitat restoration

Construction of habitat restoration in progress. Photo Credit: Jeff Diluccia

Once fish are removed from the restoration site, habitat improvements can happen without harming the fish that live there. Fish naturally return to the site once the barriers are removed and get to move into a brand new home!

Below : Fish crew electro-fishes habitat restoration area in the Pahsimeroi River. Photo Credit: Kat Gillies-Rector

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Kat Gillies-Rector