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Anglers Interested in More Year-round Fishing

Every two years the Idaho Department of Fish and Game sets new fishing rules.

The first step to that process is called "scoping." During scoping, biologists meet with the public to share information and ideas about various fisheries and point out areas where department staff members see a need for rule changes. At the same time, they ask to hear from interested anglers about where they would like to see changes.

Scoping is an ongoing process that doesn't just occur during the formalized scoping meetings, regional fishery manager Jim Fredericks said.

"We speak with individuals and organizations on a regular basis, so we're constantly getting feedback and ideas from anglers," he said. "Much of our input is informal, but we hold formal scoping meetings as well."

Some rule change cycles come and go without the public or Fish and Game seeing a big need for changes. In others, biologists present several instances where they believe changes are necessary.

This year, the ideas came mostly from the public. In the recent meetings and comment period, several anglers from around the Upper Snake Region had one suggestion: Open more water to year-round fishing.

Fredericks thinks that's not a bad idea. The current stream season runs from Memorial Weekend through November 30.

"When you really look at it, snow, ice and access limit fishing in many rivers from December through March anyway," he said. "So year-round fishing mainly increases effort in April and May."

Historically, many fisheries were closed in those months to protect spawning fish.

"Ten or 20 years ago, anglers were much more into harvest, so more protection was necessary," he said. "But because of the change in attitudes, our experience and that of other states shows that year-round fishing creates opportunity without compromising the resource."

Anglers suggested several waters, such as Ririe Reservoir and various reaches of the Henrys Fork, that still have a general stream season. Other rivers, such as the Teton, Fall, and Warm River have a "winter stream season" that allows anglers to fish from December through March on a catch-and-release basis.

"Fish and Game would consider a shift to year-round fishing on these rivers as well if the public supports it," Fredericks said.

Interested anglers should watch for announcements later in the summer for meetings during which Fish and Game will present formal proposed changes.