IDAHO FALLS - We all often hear only what we want to hear, anglers are no different! Many fishermen have heard about the fishing regulation changes approved by the Idaho Fish & Game Commission for the Upper Snake Region and assume that they went into effect immediately. Because of the intricacies of state law and the complexity of making changes mid-stream, the regular regulation cycle must play out before the hook on new changes can be set.
The most important thing for anglers to be aware of is that the fishing season on the South Fork of the Snake River above Heise still ends on November 31, 2003!
Starting on January 1, 2004 the entire South Fork will reopen for fishing, from that date forward the river will then remain open year-round. On that same day, Yellowstone Cutthroat trout will also begin their new status as "catch & release" on the South Fork and on the four major spawning tributaries Burns, Palisades, Pine, and Rainey Creeks.
While the South Fork will remain open year-round, these important spawning streams will all have a special season starting on July 1 and running through November 30.
The other important change on the South Fork is that all size and creel limits are being lifted on rainbow trout and hybrid (cutthroat x rainbow trout). According to Regional Fisheries Manager Jim Fredericks, "We really want people to understand how important we feel it is to harvest rainbows. Rainbow trout are considered the biggest threat to our native Yellowstone cutthroat trout population!" For anglers unsure about species identification, the simplest tip is to key in on the color of the fin tips of the fish. If there is any white coloration to the fin tips, then it is hybrid and falls under the new rainbow rules!
The North Fork or Henrys Fork, also has some new changes coming into play on January 1 regarding season dates. According to Fredericks, "The "open all year" section on the Henrys Fork has been extended north to Riverside Campground. In the past it started at the Highway 20 Bridge and ran upstream to mouth of Warm River." Warm River itself will now have a winter stream season which will after this year start on December 1 and run through the end of March. "The winter stream season is a catch and release fishery except for mountain whitefish and brook trout. This type of season protects spawning brown trout and rainbow trout," says Fredericks.
To make things easier for anglers, the entire stretch of the Henrys Fork within Harriman State Park will have a uniform season of June 15 through November 30.
Numerous potential changes for Henrys Lake were also discussed, but ultimately no changes in dates, times, or limits were made for the present time. Biologists are keeping a close eye on the fishery at Henrys and will propose changes in two years if conditions warrant.