Press Release

July 2005

Steelhead Season Open on Lower Clearwater

Anglers fishing two miles of the lower Clearwater River for steelhead can now keep what they catch. The harvest season is now open from the mouth to Memorial Bridge on U.S. Highway 12 at Lewiston.

Anglers targeting steelhead must have a valid Idaho fishing license and a steelhead tag. Barbless hooks are required. Only steelhead with evidence of a clipped adipose fin may be kept. Steelhead limits are three per day, nine in possession, and 20 per season.

The remainder of the Clearwater River is open for catch and release of steelhead, as are rivers throughout the state except the Middle and South Forks of the Salmon River. The harvest season on the Clearwater from Memorial Bridge upstream to Clear Creek, as well as the South Fork Clearwater and the North Fork Clearwater, opens October 15. The fall season for steelhead on the Salmon River, Little Salmon River, and Snake River opens September 1.

The Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee is forecasting a return of steelhead just slightly lower than the 10-year average. The average number of steelhead passing Bonneville Dam from June 1 to May 31 is 314,767. The committee is forecasting this season's run past Bonneville Dam at 293,308. This translates to a forecast return of 117,232 at Lower Granite Dam, compared to a ten year average of 126,090. Lower Granite Dam is the final hurdle for steelhead and salmon returning to Idaho. It is also the final location for counting steelhead as they migrate toward hatcheries or spawning grounds in Idaho.

The forecast numbers provided by the Technical Advisory Committee are preliminary. The forecast will be updated as daily counts past Bonneville Dam increase.

Applications Available for Second Controlled Hunts

Hunters who missed out on the first opportunity for controlled hunts for deer, elk, antelope, and fall black bear have 10 days to apply for a second chance.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will take applications from August 5 to August 15. A list of available tags will be available on the Fish and Game website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov License vendors will also have a list of available tags by August 5. Hunters can file applications at license vendors, Fish and Game offices, on the internet, or by calling 1-800-554-8685.

The drawing will be held August 20, and permits will be available for purchase on August 25. If the number of permits exceeds the number of applications, any leftover permits will be sold on a first-come first-served basis.

Green-field Hunts of the Palouse Require Special Adjustments

By David Beaver - Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Scheduling hunting seasons to accommodate a variety of users with individual preferences is a challenging mission for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

There are special weapon hunts, controlled hunts, depredation hunts and general hunts for a variety of species for a variety of people. Some hunters want various seasons to overlap or opening days to coincide, while others want the exact opposite. Landowners with agricultural crops have increasingly expressed their concerns about crop damage and increasing populations. Consequently, regulations become more complex as Fish and Game attempts to accommodate everyone.

Traditionally, the months of September through November have been recognized as the time to hunt, and in general, most big game seasons fall within this framework. However, to accommodate the public's desire to hold special weapon seasons separate from general rifle season, or to address depredation problems, some hunts are held in August or December.

This year marks the second consecutive "green-field hunt" for the Palouse zone big game management units 8, 8A and 11A of the Clearwater Region. This hunt has been implemented as a means of helping landowners reduce crop damage and provide additional opportunities for hunters. These hunts are for antlerless elk and begin August 1 and continue through September 15.

These hunts are open only outside the National Forest Boundary and within one mile of cultivated fields. Hunters are encouraged to review page 47 of the 2005 Big Game Regulations for additional details.

MK Nature Center Gets Down and Dirty

Worms & More: Compost Digging

August 4, 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Come and see what is under all that dirt. In order to discover more about compost and worms, we need to dig in the dirt. After uncovering our treasures, learn how our discoveries are important to healthy soil and the ecosystem. Meet at the building entrance. Open to all ages.

The Scoop on Poop

August 6, 10:00 a.m.

Get the scoop about wildlife poop. Learn how to find wildlife using scat and tracks, then put it to use on a walk along the Nature Center path. Free. Open to K-3rd graders. Please call 334-2225 to register, space is limited.

Ask Fish and Game

Q: I am planning a trip to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The regulations require barbless hooks, but say nothing about treble hooks. Can I use a treble hook on the Middle Fork?

A: Yes. You may use a treble hook when fishing the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Just make sure the barbs are removed or completely bent down on all three points. In Idaho the definition of hook is: a bent wire device to which one, two or three points may be attached to a single shank. The same rules apply to all waters in the state that are restricted to barbless hooks. The number of points on the hook doesn't matter as long as the barbs are removed.

Upper Salmon River Chinook Season Closes Sunday

When the clock chimes 7 pm on Sunday, August 7, the first Chinook salmon season on the upper reaches of the Salmon River will close.

That is the expiration date of the NOAA Fisheries permit allowing for this summer's long hoped-for season.

Overall, the season has been considered a success in spite of fairly slow fishing. For local anglers from Salmon and Challis it was the return of part of the communities' collective heritage. Anglers old enough to remember the glory years of salmon fishing as well as young anglers, for whom salmon are just a memory, flocked to the river. More often than not, they came home empty handed, but thrilled just to be fishing for chinook in their own backyard. Salmon mayor Stan Davis who caught a 12 - 15 pound salmon said he was "shocked and thrilled" when the season opened. "It gives us old-timers a bit of a reflection on the past. And I fully support the concept of excess fish going to sportsmen for harvest" Davis commented.

For Fish and Game staff, the season was the culmination of several years of planning and negotiations with NOAA Fisheries to get approval for a season on surplus hatchery-origin chinook. Staff from several department bureaus and regions stepped in to operate check stations and talk with anglers. The excitement of the staff closely matched that of the anglers. "It was really fun to be a part of such a momentous event." said Salmon Regional Supervisor Jim Lukens. "I enjoyed visiting with anglers and hearing their stories."

And it is those stories that will carry through long after the season closes on the seventh of August.

Snake River Catfish Safe to Eat

Biologists with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have identified bacteria (motile Aeromonas) leading to the deaths of catfish in the Snake River and Brownlee Reservoir. The bacteria are specific to fish. They are common bacteria that appeared to be amplified in the catfish by warm water, low levels of dissolved oxygen and high levels of nutrient in the Snake River.

The bacteria can not survive in warm-blooded animals including humans. Fish and Game regional fishery manager Jeff Dillon says live catfish in the Snake River and Brownlee Reservoir are safe to eat. "If you catch a healthy looking fish you don't have anything to worry about."

However, Dillon cautions people against eating or handling any dead fish they encounter at the reservoir. "People should use common sense," He said "Anytime you have sick or dead fish there could be other undesirable bacteria that show up once the fish are dead. I would not take any of those dead fish home and eat them."

While thousands of catfish have died in the area, managers say they only represent a small portion of the population in the Snake River. Unless water quality continues to get worse this isolated incident should have little impact on the long term quality of the fishery.

Idaho Resident Wins Bighorn Sheep Lottery

The Idaho Fish and Game Department drew the name of Eagle, Idaho resident Ed Rochnowski for this year's Bighorn Sheep lottery tag. The tag is drawn in a cooperative effort between the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Idaho Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS).

Chuck Middleton, President of the Idaho Chapter of FNAWS said he was thrilled to see an Idahoan get the tag. "People from many states and other countries applied, and it's really special to have an Idahoan win," he said "I know Ed, and it's even more special to know that someone who supports species conservation will get this opportunity."

Rochnowski will be able to use the tag to hunt any open hunt for bighorn sheep in Idaho except in unit 11. He was among hundreds of hunters who helped raise more than 68 thousand dollars with the purchase of lottery tickets for this drawing. That brings the total raised since the first drawing to more than half a million dollars.

According to Ray Lee, President and CEO of the national FNAWS organization, the money raised from the lottery is used for projects to keep sheep and other Idaho species healthy. "The Idaho Bighorn Sheep Lottery Tag is an excellent example of bighorn sheep hunters using their money to support wildlife conservation for everyone," Lee said "The money raised from this tag goes to Idaho's Wildlife Health Lab, to support their efforts to maintain healthy wildlife populations, not only populations of bighorn sheep, but all other wildlife-- and domestic livestock as well."

Earlier this year a bighorn sheep tag was auctioned off for a record 180 thousand dollars. The opportunity to participate in Idaho's coveted Unit 11 hunt helped make that tag the second biggest fundraiser for FNAWS this year. The money helps a multitude of species in Idaho, but is crucial to the prosperity of wild sheep in the Gem State.

Catfish Dying At Brownlee Reservoir

Scores of dead and dying channel catfish have been found in the Snake River and the upper end of Brownlee Reservoir in the past few days, and Fish and Game fisheries biologists continue to monitor the situation. Based on reports from the public, the die-off started late last week and by the weekend there were thousands of dead and dying catfish showing up near Farewell Bend and Steck Park.

Fish and Game staff have been actively surveying the river and reservoir from Spring Creek Boat Ramp upstream to several miles above Farewell Bend. "About 99 percent of the fish we observed were channel catfish," Fish and Game fisheries biologist Brian Flatter noted. "And most had red spots and sores on them suggesting some sort of disease." More than 20 live fish were collected and taken to the Department's Fish Health Lab for diagnosis.

A number of factors likely led to the die-off. "At this point we suspect that last week's high temperatures, coupled with low flows in the river, and high densities of catfish made things ripe for a disease outbreak," Fish and Game fisheries manager Jeff Dillon said. "Other species don't appear to be affected, ruling out a chemical spill or overall lack of oxygen in the river as a cause. We'll know more in a few days when we get the pathology report."

Because the exact cause of the die-ff has not yet been pinpointed, Fish and Game is recommending that persons avoid handling or eating sick or dead catfish. "We don't view this as a public health threat," Dillon said. "As a rule, fish diseases are not transferable to humans, but we want to be sure what the cause is before telling people that the fish are safe to eat. "As soon as we know, we'll get the word out either way."

Purchase Controlled Hunt Permits by August 1

Hunters whose names were drawn for controlled hunts for deer, elk, antelope, and fall black bear in Idaho must purchase their permit(s) by August 1.

Each year about eight percent of hunters who draw big game hunts fail to claim their tags. After August 1, unclaimed tags for deer, elk, antelope, and fall black bear controlled hunts will go back into a pool for which a second drawing will be held August 25. Hunters have from August 5-15 to apply for the second drawing.

Returning Troops Get First Shot at Depredation Hunts

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has approved putting men and women returning from active military duty at the front of the line for depredation hunts.

The change in policy is a response to Idaho military members who are involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fish and Game has been asked to provide opportunity for those returning to Idaho after the general hunting season.

Until now, people applying for depredation hunts after June had the poorest odds of drawing a tag. The new policy will give priority to hunters returning from active military duty in any armed conflict regardless of when they apply.

Applicants can sign up at a regional office or Fish and Game

headquarters after returning to Idaho, or print a depredation hunt application from the Fish and Game website at http://fishgame.idaho.gov/cms/licenses/apps/ and mail it in. To qualify applicants must bring a copy of the orders to a Fish and Game office or include a copy of orders with the mail-in application.

Salmon Anglers Enjoy Season

The backlit glow of the early morning sun shadows the cliff faces along the Salmon River. The air is crisp and cool, a relief from yesterday afternoon's heat. Quietly, a boat drifts silently into view. It is followed by another and then a third. Fishermen are quiet; the only sounds are the tumbling of water and the occasional muffled thump of oar on boat. Fishing line arcs out over the water. On it is tied not only a lure, but the hope of catching a chinook salmon during the first salmon season in 27 years on the upper reaches of the big fishes' namesake river.

"This is just great!" exclaims an angler from Challis. "I got one hooked only it broke off. But we got a lot of nibbles and got to see a bunch of fish" she adds smiling. "Now, it's too hot, but you bet we'll be back tomorrow!" Another truck, bristling with fishing rods pulls to a halt at the check station. They are in the "no fish" line and smile ruefully when asked about their day's catch. "Nothing today, but we're gettin' to fish for salmon and that's something special" says the passenger. His companion nods in agreement.

In 1978, fishing for Chinook salmon in the upper Salmon River ended. Numbers of returning salmon had declined precipitously prior to this time and in an effort to help save the species, fishing was closed and the Chinook salmon was declared a protected species. Anglers were stunned. It seemed impossible that the big fish that used to fill the rivers and streams could have been reduced to numbers small enough to close the season. Many protested the closure, some even staging a "fish-in" along the Salmon River, dangling unrigged fishing line into the river.