Press Release

October 2005

Shocking Data Show Cutthroat Recovery is Working

By Gregg Losinski, Upper Snake River Valley Regional Conservation Educator

When you mix 200 volts of electricity with water you're setting the stage for some shocking results.

That is just what Fisheries biologists with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game found during their recent population surveys on the South Fork of the Snake River. Each year, researchers use electro-fishing equipment to assess populations near Conant Valley. This is the year they've been waiting for to learn how well the cutthroat population is responding to efforts to save the famed fishery.

In 2004, the Fish and Game changed fishing regulations on the river to allow unlimited harvest of rainbow trout, while changing cutthroat to all catch-and-release. In addition, the department worked with the Bureau of Reclamation to modify flows to benefit cutthroat trout. According to Jim Fredericks, Regional Fishery Manager, the October 2005 surveys are the first time they'd be able to gauge the effectiveness of the modified flows from Palisades Dam.

So far, the results are encouraging. The cutthroat population was up about 27 percent from last year, primarily a result of a good year-class of fish produced in 2004. After several successive years of poor recruitment, the good production was a welcome sight. "This is extremely important information" Fredericks said. "The Bureau of Reclamation has worked with water users and the fisheries community to implement these experimental flows, and now it looks like those efforts are paying off."

While cutthroat trout numbers were on the rise, Fish and Game was equally encouraged to see a decline in the rainbow population. There have now been two successive years in which the surveys have shown a decrease in the rainbow population. In fact, the population is down an estimated 55 percent since October 2003 from nearly 1,500 fish per mile to 670 fish per mile, which is the lowest it has been in 10 years.

Steelhead Coming to Boise River

Treasure Valley anglers who want to catch a steelhead without burning a tank of gas will have that opportunity.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will begin planting adult steelhead in the Boise River on Thursday, November 3. Fish and Game is trapping the fish in Hells Canyon in cooperation with Idaho Power Corporation. In surplus years, steelhead are moved to the Boise River to mitigate for the loss of fisheries caused by the Hells Canyon complex of dams. Before the dams were built steelhead returned to spawn in the Boise, Payette and Weiser rivers.

Anglers fishing for steelhead must have a valid fishing license and a steelhead permit. The statewide limits for steelhead are three per day, nine in possession and 20 per season. When fishing the Boise River anglers are not required to use barbless hooks, because there is no chance they will catch a wild steelhead.

How's Your Check Station I.Q.?

By Al Van Vooren, Regional Supervisor - Southwest Region

Big game and upland seasons are now in full swing across Idaho. If you spend your days in the woods this time of year, there's a good chance you've made a stop at a Fish and Game check station on your way home.

So how's your check station I.Q.? There are some misconceptions about why and how Fish and Game operates check stations. Take this short quiz and see how your understanding stacks up.

Question 1: True or False. A statistical formula is used to estimate the total number of animals harvested based on the number checked at check stations.

Question 2: True or False. Fish and Game operates check stations only to collect biological information.

Question 3: True or False. Hunters without game must stop at check stations.

Question 4: True or False. Biologists can write citations for wildlife violations they encounter at check stations without a Conservation Officer being present.


Question 1: False. Check stations are not used to try to estimate harvest at all. Harvest is determined from the mandatory harvest reports, combined with some phone survey work

Ask Fish and Game

Q. What small game can I hunt with my .22?

A. Cottontail rabbits and forest grouse-ruffed, spruce and blue-are legal game with a .22 caliber weapon. Shotguns are the legal and appropriate weapon for all other small game. Much small game hunting takes place fairly close to human habitation and .22s are dangerous up to about a mile so this becomes a matter of safety as well as tradition and law. Predators may be hunted with .22s.

Fish and Game Needs Your Teeth

Okay, Fish and Game does not need your teeth, but wildlife biologists are interested in getting the front teeth of the deer or elk you harvest this fall. These front teeth or incisors and their roots are important for aging big game animals. In a current study, Fish and Game biologists are examining the different ages of elk and deer populations throughout the region. And in order to get the best information possible, a large number of tooth samples are needed. Determining the ages of different animals can provide information about the overall age composition of a herd. This, in turn, can provide valuable information about the reproductive status and productivity of that group.

If a herd is made up mainly of older animals, then two problems are often seen. First, some older cows or does will not reproduce at all. Secondly, and more importantly, older females that do produce a calf or fawn are often unable to produce enough milk or the high-quality milk the growing youngster needs. This is especially true of bull calves or buck fawns which have higher energy needs for development than do females. These young animals then starve or are unable to escape predators or withstand bad weather. As a result, the overall productivity of that herd declines. On the other hand, a healthy herd with a diversity of ages will usually have higher productivity because the reproducing females are in better condition and can successfully raise their offspring, increasing herd numbers.

The tooth samples hunters provide will be compared with data from radio-collared animals as well as data from herd composition surveys. This data will provide valuable information about the overall productivity of the big game herds in the Salmon region and statewide. This information will, in turn, be used to help make decisions regarding hunting seasons and permit levels in future years.

Steelheaders Can't Keep Fall Chinook or Coho

Steelhead anglers fishing Idaho waters may find another big fish at the end of their lines; a fall Chinook.

With steelhead numbers picking up, many big-fish chasers are hitting the water. While steelhead anglers are most likely to catch what they are after, some are tangling with fall Chinook salmon. It may be hard to differentiate between the two while the fight is on, but several differences are apparent once the fish is close to the boat or bank.

Steelhead look almost identical to their freshwater cousin, the rainbow trout. They generally have a pink, purple, or red stripe down each side as well as on their gill covers. Chinook salmon generally have no stripe, although they may take on some red coloration as they prepare to spawn. The most distinct difference between steelhead and Chinook is in the mouth. Chinook salmon have black mouths with a black gum-line while the inside of a steelhead's mouth is white.

Snake River fall Chinook salmon (including those returning to all Idaho waters, whether of hatchery or natural origin) are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The IDFG Commission has not opened any season for ocean-run fall Chinook.

Anglers fishing the Lower Snake River and the Clearwater River also have a chance of catching a coho salmon. While distinguishing between coho and steelhead is more difficult, anglers should take the time to make sure they're not keeping a coho. Coho salmon usually have light gums, but usually have black inside the mouth, especially the tongue. Another distinguishing mark is the tail fin. On steelhead, black spots are distributed throughout the tail fin; on coho salmon, spots appear only on the upper lobe of the fin, if at all.

Fisheries technician Larry Barrett says if there is any doubt, anglers should remember this simple phrase: "If the mouth has black, put it back."

Motorists Should Watch for Migrating Deer

Every fall a traditional migration begins as deer and elk begin moving from the high elevations of Idaho to their winter ranges.

In many cases those winter ranges are near population centers and the roads that surround them. Every year around this time the number of accidents involving deer begins to rise. Deer and elk are fast moving animals, and many accidents occur when a deer quickly and unexpectedly ends up on a roadway. Motorists should be cautious at all times of the year, but for the next several months, people driving on Idaho highways should exercise extra caution.

Deer might pop out anywhere on thousands of miles of highway in Idaho, but there are certain areas where motorists are more likely to encounter them. In those places warning signs are posted. Those signs are not erected for target practice. They are placed in areas where deer are most likely to appear on the road. Motorists who drive cautiously in those areas are likely to avoid unnecessary damage and potential injury.

Big Game Survival Study Available on Web

In January 2005, Idaho Fish and Game biologists began the largest big game research project ever conducted in Idaho, and possibly the west.

Crews trapped and radio collared more than 900 deer, elk, and moose in 19 big game units in the Clearwater, Southwest, Salmon and Upper Snake River regions of Idaho. Since then biologists have been monitoring the survival and behavior of those animals by tracking the radio collars.

The study was designed to document various influences on survival of big game herds, primarily deer and elk. There has been much speculation on how reintroduced wolves are impacting those herds. Now the first solid data on that topic are available to Fish and Game, and the department is making it available to the public.

Big Game Manager Brad Compton says that, while the study evaluates the effect of wolves and other predators on deer and elk, this is more than a wolf study. "While it's critical to understand what impacts wolves are having, it's also critical to understand what affects weed invasion, fire, fire suppression, and other habitat changes are having" Compton said.

While it's easy to visualize the impacts of a wolf killing a prey animal, it's more difficult to determine what impacts changing habitats may be playing. The impacts of predation vary from year to year and tend to be short-term. Habitat changes happen gradually and impacts are long term.

WMAs Receive More Pheasants

Pheasant hunters might want to go a little farther afield to find more birds and wider spaces to hunt them.

Idaho Fish and Game plans to release more pheasants this year than last year at some southern Idaho Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Nearly 1,000 more birds will go to the C. J. Strike WMA. The Ft. Boise WMA will also release 1,000 more game farm reared birds than last year. C.J. Strike WMA may be a little farther to drive, but hunters will find just as many birds, more open country to roam in, and less hunting pressure than other southwest WMAs.

More than 18,000 birds have been purchased to be released on Fish and Game properties this season to provide hunting opportunity where habitat losses have cut pheasant numbers drastically during the past 20 years.

Hunters pay $23.75 for the chance to take six birds on WMAs where pheasants are released. The fee helps offset the cost of purchasing birds.

Orphaned Cougar Kittens in Good Hands

Three cougar kittens that were orphaned when their mother was shot by hunters near Cambridge are in the care of a rehabilitator.

Contrary to some media reports, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is not seeking help from the public to feed or otherwise care for the kittens. "The kittens are currently being provided excellent care at a licensed wildlife rehabilitator's private residence in the Treasure Valley" said biologist Jon Rachael "Arrangements will soon be made for them to be relocated to a permanent home in a sanctuary or zoo, most likely out of state." Fish and Game has made a tentative arrangement to send the kittens to Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. If all goes according to plan the kittens will be leaving Idaho sometime this week.

Rachael has also received requests from people who would like to see the kittens. While they are very cute and the desire for a close-up look is understandable, Rachael says it would not be good for the cougars, which are only a few weeks old.

"These are wild animals, and we will continue to treat them as wild animals," Rachael said "I believe minimal contact with humans is in the best interest of these mountain lion kittens at this critical time in their lives."

Ask Fish and Game

Q: My cousin from Montana is coming to Idaho for a week, and wants to go elk hunting. Is it too late for us to get elk tags?

A: Unfortunately for your cousin, nonresident general elk tags are sold out, but you, as a resident, can still buy a tag, depending on where you plan to hunt. General hunt tags are available in many parts of the state on an unlimited basis. There are some areas where quotas are in place, and in some of those areas the tags are sold out. There are still some Lolo B tags available, and there are also tags available in the Middle Fork. In addition, there are still a limited number of leftover controlled hunt tags available for cow and youth hunts. The leftover tags are available to residents and non-residents alike, so your cousin may still hunt elk if he would be satisfied with one of the limited leftover cow tags available. For more information on available elk tags, check the Fish and Game website at

Mule deer hunters enjoy success

JEROME - General season mule deer hunters pursuing game in Units 43, 48, and 49 enjoyed an overall 19 percent harvest success for the opening weekend of season according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game check station data.

Department employees checked 415 hunters that took 82 bucks from Unit 43, for 19.8 percent success; 154 hunters harvested 24 bucks in Unit 48, for 15.6 percent success; and 248 hunters harvested 48 bucks in Unit 49, for 19.4 percent success.

"Overall I felt the opening weekend of the general deer season was a success," said Randy Smith, Magic Valley Region Wildlife Manager. "Hunters were reporting to have seen lots of deer and harvest success was up by two percent over last year's opening weekend."

In controlled hunts in the Magic Valley Region, hunters enjoyed much higher success. Hunters checked in Units 44, 45, 52, 54, and 55, had a 33.1 percent success rate.

Hunters with controlled antlerless tags in hunting Units 43, 48, and 49, were 40 percent successful, and either-sex youth hunters enjoyed a 33.5 percent success rate.

"During the past several years fawn survival has been high, resulting in increased deer numbers across most of the Magic Valley," said Smith. "With the good hunting conditions we're having this year; hunters are able to reap the benefits from the increase in deer numbers."