Press Release

July 2005

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."

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.

Superhunt Application Still Available

Imagine being able to hunt for your favorite big game animal in Idaho in any unit you like. Now imagine being able to move from that unit to another, and another, and another. Sounds like the hunt of a lifetime, doesn't it?

A hunt like this may sound too good to be true, but a few lucky hunters will be able to participate in any open hunt(s) they want. They are the winners of the Superhunt. Applications are still available for the second Superhunt drawing. On August 15 Fish and Game will draw winners for superhunts for two deer, two elk, two pronghorn antelope, and one moose. Any recipient of one of these tags can hunt in any open hunt they choose for the species they draw, including controlled hunts. If they are unsuccessful in the first hunt they can move to another.

At the same drawing, one lucky hunter will receive the ultimate prize, a Superhunt Combo tag. The recipient of that tag will be able to hunt all four species in any open hunt. The final day to request applications by telephone or via the web is July 30. Applications must be received at Fish and Game headquarters no later than August 10. For more information on Superhunts check the Fish and Game website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov./superhunt/

MK Nature Center Hosts Gundog Training Workshop

People interested in learning the basics of beginning gundog training can get started with a workshop at the MK Nature Center on Saturday July 30, from 9 a.m. to noon.

The workshop will include instruction on puppy selection, close patterning, steadiness, and elementary retrieving. The seminar style program will provide information specifically intended for beginning or first time gundog trainers. No dogs, please.

No admission is required but donations to the MK Nature Center will be accepted and appreciated. For more information contact John Sayles at 377-4956.

Ask Fish and Game

Q: I understand Idaho resident elk hunters can take a second elk if they buy a leftover non-resident tag. With increased pressure on our elk herds, should we really allow hunters to harvest two elk in a single season?

A: The number of hunters harvesting elk using leftover tags is much lower than you might imagine. In 2004 Idahoans purchased 246 leftover non-resident elk tags. Fish and Game received reports from 217 of those hunters. The results of that survey show that 73 elk were taken using leftover non-resident tags. That accounts for less than one half of one percent of the annual harvest of more than 18,000 elk in Idaho.

Overman Assumes New Duties As IDFG Investigator

Sr. Conservation Officer Dave Overman has been selected to assume the new position of Regional Investigator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG).

Overman, who applied for and recently received appointment to the position, was formerly the Conservation Officer in the St. Maries patrol district. His appointment was effective July 17, 2005. He will eventually be moving to Kootenai County and will be stationed at the IDFG Panhandle Region office in Coeur d'Alene.

According to Regional Conservation Officer Steve Agte, "There is an increasing need for in-depth investigation of cases involving habitual wildlife offenders. Many of these cases involve the commercialization of Idaho's fish and wildlife resources."

The investigative needs stem, in part, from the increased commercialization of antlers and horns and the increased internet marketing of wildlife parts. Some instances of sale of wildlife parts to obtain money to purchase narcotics have been detected. Additionally, the increased mobility of wildlife criminals and wildlife parts crossing state boundaries is a matter of concern to all state wildlife agencies.

Overman was selected for the position for his demonstrated ability to perform long term and complex criminal investigations. He will provide the region with expertise in case preparation, documentation, report writing, trial preparation, warrant service, and affidavit writing.

The Regional Investigator position was created using an existing vacant position, and it does not represent an expansion in IDFG personnel.

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.

The Bear Facts: Reducing Conflicts With Bears

Mid-summer is upon us and with reasonable predictability, Fish and Game is beginning to receive calls about bears. During this time of year, Idaho's bears range far and wide taking advantage of a variety of food sources. Unfortunately, some of these food sources are provided by humans in the form of garbage, camping supplies, pet food, compost piles, fruit trees, and even bird feeders. Once a bear finds such an easy meal, it will return time and again to investigate. And if the bear becomes too familiar with humans, the animal can become a potential danger. By following a few simple rules, you can help ensure that our bears do not associate humans with an easy meal.

When out camping, keep your camp clean. Make sure that garbage is properly disposed of. If you are backpacking, horsepacking, or rafting bring your garbage out with you. Do not bury garbage, food scraps, or cooking oil. Bears have an excellent sense of smell and will easily find your leftovers. Store food in airtight containers in your vehicle if possible or hang it up out of the reach of an inquisitive bear. Personal items such as toothpaste should also be stored. If you spend a lot of time in places where bears live, you might want to consider purchasing bear-proof containers for storing food.

Bears do not just cause trouble to campers. Homeowners who live in bear habitat can find themselves receiving unwanted visits by bears. Bears may be attracted by garbage, fruit trees in the yard, the compost pile, pet food, the remains of last night's steaks on the grill, cooking odors, bird feeders, or grain or sweet feeds for horses or other livestock. Making sure to address these issues can help make sure that your yard is not attractive to bears.

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. The fishermen are quiet; the only sound 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.