Press Release

February 2002

Can Too Much Snow Be Deadly To Fish?

IDAHO FALLS - The typical Currier & Ives scene of a snow covered pond conjures up peaceful thoughts for humans, but for fish residing in lakes a blanket of snow could have a more ominous meaning. In some cases, the long winter and extended period of snow cover has taken a toll on some of the lake fisheries in the Upper Snake Region. Roberts Gravel Pond and Mud Lake have suffered fairly extensive fish die-offs the past couple of weeks. While unfortunate, such fish kills routinely occur when a lake runs out of oxygen in the winter. Fortunately, oxygen levels in Henrys Lake are holding up well.

"Fish in lakes depend on plants to make oxygen for their survival," said Jim Fredericks, Regional Fish Manager for IDFG in the Upper Snake Region. In the winter, many of the plants die out. Instead of producing oxygen, they decay and actually take oxygen out of the water. How many plants die and use oxygen instead of producing oxygen depends on how much sunlight penetrates through the ice to allow photosynthesis. Sunlight penetration, in turn, depends on how long the ice covers the lake and how much snow covers the ice. This winter, although the mountain snowpack is below average, there has been an unusual amount of snow on the Snake River Plain. The resulting prolonged snow cover led to the decreased oxygen levels in these two lakes.

Henrys Lake, the crown jewel of Idaho's trout lakes does not appear to be heading for a winterkill. In the winter of 1990-91, oxygen levels in much of Henrys Lake dipped below the threshold for trout survival, resulting in a fairly extensive die-off. Since then, biologists have monitored oxygen levels in Henrys Lake through the winter to determine the rate of oxygen depletion. Because biologists anticipated less than favorable conditions this winter, IDFG also earlier began running the aeration system in Henrys Lake to provide additional oxygen.

Dogs and Deer Don't Mix

Winter perils to big game are many. The foremost problem is finding food and maintaining enough fat reserves to outlast winter. One unnecessary strain on big game animals, deer in particular, is surviving stress and energy loss associated with being chased by free roaming dogs. The IDFG office has received reports of loose dogs chasing deer in Kootenai, Shoshone, and Bonner Counties.

Many dog owners probably feel their friendly and gentle dog would never chase a deer. But when dogs meet deer and natural predatory instincts take over, the chase is on. Often it isn't much of a chase; as the lighter weight dog with big feet runs on top of the crusted snow, and the heavier deer breaks through the snow with little chance of escape. If concern about the welfare of individual deer or the deer population isn't enough to make a dog owner control his dog, Idaho law should. According to Idaho law, "Any person who is the owner of, or in possession of, or who harbors any dog found running at large and which is actively tracking, pursuing, harassing or attacking, or which injures or kills a deer, or other big game animal within this state, shall be guilty of an infraction." Should a dog kill a deer, the owner can be held responsible for the illegal taking of a deer which has a civil penalty of $200. Add in the fact that most counties have ordinances against allowing dogs to run loose, ordinances with even stiffer penalties, the effort it may take to keep Rover at home is well worth it.

Project Wild Workshop Offered

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has scheduled another "Project Wild" workshop for teachers and youth leaders. The workshop is scheduled for April 12-13 in the Bonners Ferry area (exact location tba). The workshop includes a Friday evening (4-9 p.m.) and Saturday (8a.m.-6p.m.). Space is limited, pre-registration and a $5 deposit are required. Call the IDFG regional office at 769-1414 for registration information.

Project Wild is a wildlife oriented, multi-disciplinary set of activities for use primarily with students. The activities develop awareness, knowledge and skills concerning the relationships between humans, wildlife and the natural world. Wildlife concepts are related to social studies, mathematics, language arts and other subjects and do not take time away from established curricula.

Each workshop involves participants in the activities and demonstrates techniques for integrating the supplementary materials onto classrooms and informal learning settings.

Workshops are free. Participants receive a K-12 activity guide and an aquatic guide free of charge. Optional graduate or undergraduate credit (1 hour) is available for $56 from any university in Idaho (less from Northwest Nazarene College).

Project Wild is used in 50 states and seven countries. The goal of the program is to assist learners in developing a commitment to responsible and constructive actions concerning wildlife and the environment upon which all life depends. Wildlife is an indicator of environmental health, and is important to most people's quality of life. Where there is abundant wildlife there is likely to be clean air, clean water diverse vegetation and healthy soil.

Young people are fascinated by the study of wildlife, opening windows of learning into all subject areas. Project Wild is based on the premise that young people and their teachers have a vital interest in learning about the earth as home for people and wildlife.

Anglers Reminded of Trout Regulation Changes for the Kootenai River

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is reminding anglers of the trout fishing regulation changes for the Kootenai River that took effect on Jan 1, 2002. The new bag limit is now 2 trout (either rainbow or cutthroat), and no trout under 16" may be kept. There are no gear restrictions.

Some anglers expressed concern about allowing the use of bait when trout under 16 inches need to be released. Similar regulations on cutthroat trout in other Idaho waters have shown that fish populations improve even when bait is allowed. Anglers can help by hooking bait caught trout quickly so the hook isn't swallowed and releasing the fish carefully. If an undersized trout swallows the hook, cutting the line will allow the hook to quickly rust out.

The new regulations are a result of ongoing research the Department has been conducting on the river. Biologists have been tagging fish with radio-tags and angler reward tags to learn about fish movements, spawning locations, and angler harvest rates. Based on tag returns from anglers, biologists have determined that fishermen harvested about 50% of the trout population 9" or larger in 1999 and 2000. Typically, when harvest rates exceed about 30-35% in other sport fisheries, managers begin implementing restrictions to prevent overharvest. Thus, biologists felt tighter restrictions were warranted for the Kootenai River.

Research has also shown the Kootenai River trout population is recruitment limited, meaning that relatively few young fish are added to the population each year. There are very few streams available in Idaho for spawning trout. The combination of high harvest rates and low recruitment rates can cause sharp declines in fish populations. The 16" minimum size limit will protect fish until they can spawn at least once.

Pend Oreille Public Workshop Scheduled

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will host a public workshop to solicit community ideas on how to recover the kokanee population in Lake Pend Oreille. The workshop will include a continental breakfast and will be held on Saturday March 23 from 8 am until noon at the Sandpoint Community Hall, 204 S First Ave.

The workshop will include a slide presentation describing the history of the kokanee fishery on Lake Pend Oreille, which will be followed by small and large group discussions. Groups will discuss kokanee population recovery, building community trust, and criteria for selecting a Citizens' Advisory Committee for Lake Pend Oreille.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will summarize and provide the ideas developed in the public workshop to a Citizens' Advisory Committee, which will be formed to recommend ways to integrate Lake Pend Oreille fishery management with community interests.

IDFG is seeking participation in the workshop from all social, economic, and environmental interests in the fisheries of Lake Pend Oreille and encourages all interested parties to attend the public workshop. For additional information, contact Regional Fisheries Program Manager, Ned Horner, IDFG, Panhandle Regional Office, (208) 769-1414.

Bobcat Pelt Tag Deadline Approaching

LEWISTON -- The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reminds hunters and trappers of the March 10th deadline for mandatory tagging of bobcat pelts. Sportsmen can take their pelts to any IDFG regional office, the McCall office or an official check-point to obtain the appropriate tags and complete a harvest report.

A check-point is scheduled for Grangeville on Wednesday, March 6th from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Oddfellow Hall located at 825 Cunningham. Pelts can also be taken to the IDFG Clearwater Region office in Lewiston, 1540 Warner, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The lower jaws of the bobcats are not being requested this year. However, the carcasses must be thawed out prior to tagging. A fee of $2.00 will be charged for each pelt, and an additional $1.50 vendor fee will be charged to each license holder. Sportsmen can save money by checking all their pelts in at one time, as the vendor fee of $1.50 applies whether one pelt or ten are checked.

In addition, as of Monday, February 25, the Clearwater region otter season quota of 14 otters has not been met. Trappers are reminded the season closes March 15. Pelts must be tagged by IDFG personnel at the regional office in the region in which the animal was taken within 72 hours of harvest.

Hunter Education Course Offered In Kamiah

KAMIAH -- The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is encouraging future hunters to signed up for the mandatory hunter education course scheduled in Kamiah for March 4, 6, 7, 11, 13, and 14, with a field shoot planned for March 16.

For more information and to register for this class, contact IDFG at 935-4284. Please leave a message with your name and phone number if nobody answers your call.

Students must be at least 11-years old to enroll. Fees for the student's workbook and ammunition are $8. Parents or legal guardians are encouraged to accompany the students and participate in the entire program. The course is a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on experiences that last approximately 12 - 16 hours.

Because of high interest and limited space, prospective students are encouraged to register for classes soon so they can complete the course in time to buy a license to hunt this fall. Idaho law requires that anyone born after January 1st, 1975 must complete an IDFG hunter education course as a prerequisite to purchasing a hunting license. The courses are held at numerous locations across the region throughout the year.

IDFG Schedules March Breakfast Meeting

LEWISTON -- Outdoor enthusiasts are invited to the monthly Idaho Fish and Game breakfast meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, 6:30 a.m., at the Helm Restaurant in Lewiston.

IDFG personnel will provide information on the recent waterfowl and big game aerial surveys, turkey trapping and transplant efforts, results of the managed goose hunts, and updates on the steelhead run and upcoming salmon season. Local outdoor groups are also invited to give reports of their current activities.

The breakfasts are held the first Tuesday of each month at the Helm restaurant. The meetings are open to anyone and are designed to stimulate informal discussion about wildlife issues in the Clearwater Region. The breakfasts run until 9:00 a.m., with coffee provided by Fish and Game.

Steelheading Heats Up

Despite wintry conditions and low water temperatures, steelhead anglers are stacking up fish on the Salmon River below North Fork and on the Clearwater.

Fish and Game check station workers at North Fork saw 178 anglers and 90 steelhead over the weekend. Anglers were averaging 11 hours per fish; anything under 20 hours per fish is considered good fishing.

Hours per fish were the same on the Clearwater River where the water temperature was around 36 degrees and conditions were murky.

Ice shelves lined the edges of the Salmon River, creating treacherous walking for anglers. Water temperatures in the mid-30s meant steelhead were less than aggressive. Still, angling success equaled some of the better fall fishing figures on both rivers. The Salmon River near Riggins produced steelhead at a rate of about 20 hours per fish.

Hatchery steelhead are moving up the Salmon River to the Pahsimeroi and Sawtooth hatcheries where human-assisted spawning will take place later this spring.

More than 256,000 steelhead have been counted over Lower Granite Dam in this run, more than double last season's run and more than three times the 10-year average.

Spring steelhead season limits were raised to three per day with nine in possession to allow anglers a bigger share of the huge run.

Turkey Hunt Stats on Web

As hunters' thoughts turn to spring turkey hunts, new information is available on the Fish and Game Internet web site.

Turkey hunters can now review bird harvest, hunter success rates, number of hunters and other important information by individual hunt in the newly expanded web site section on wild turkeys in Idaho. This section can be found at on the Internet.

Bird hunters may note that more information has also been added in the upland game bird section. Further additions there are underway.

Spring turkey hunts begin April 15.

Idaho's Natural Heritage on Display

A new display is available free to the public at the Nature Center in Boise.

Discover Idaho's Natural Heritage at the MK Nature Center. Together for the first time, three traveling exhibits from the Natural Heritage Center at Idaho State University will be on display through May 31.

Each of these displays offers photographs, graphic images, specimens, and an interactive computer kiosk, which enables visitors to examine Idaho's natural resources, habitat areas, and the animal species living within the borders of this state.

"Understanding the Work of Nature" focuses on Idaho's diverse landscape. Take a virtual hike to the top of Idaho's tallest peak, Mount Borah, examining the different habitats, and the plants and animals at each elevation.

"Appreciating Nature's Services" examines how plants and animals provide human communities with many different types of resources, from medicines to outdoor recreation opportunities.

"Conserving the Diversity of Life" explores how people can build a community and still be responsible caretakers of the land through careful planning. New and protected wetlands as well as wastewater treatment facilities help improve the quality of water, which sustains all life.

Visit these exhibits from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the MK Nature Center, 600 South Walnut, Boise, through May 31. For further information on the displays, visit the Natural Heritage Center website at:

Ask Fish and Game

Q. What can a private citizen legally do when a game animal, such as a deer, is mortally wounded (as in a recent case involving a deer and a car) and needs to be dispatched as quickly and mercifully as possible?

A. Doing what seems the most expedientÑand decentÑthing to do at the moment has the potential to cause the citizen to have to explain this action to a magistrate. To avoid this potential, it is best to call Fish and Game or local law enforcement agency. Many of these incidents occur in city or county jurisdictions where discharge of a firearm by private citizens is not legal, causing a problem with the law not even related to Fish and Game laws.