Press Release

August 2006

Waterfowl Regulations Available

Waterfowl hunting regulation for 2006-2007 will be available after September 4 at Idaho Department of Fish and Game offices and hunting license vendors across the state.

The regulations also are available at the Fish and Game Website: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/rules/wf/.

Earlier this year the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted the 107-day season for ducks, geese, coots and snipe, with unchanged bag limits, as recommended by Fish and Game waterfowl biologists and based on federal waterfowl information.

Season dates are:

¥ October 7 to January 19, 2007-Area 1, northern and eastern Idaho.

¥ October 14 to January 26, 2007-Area 2, southwestern Idaho and Magic Valley.

¥ September 30 and October 1-two-day youth hunt for hunters aged 15 and under.

Bag limits are unchanged from last year.

Daily limits:

¥ Ducks: 7 of any kind, including not more than:

o 1 canvasback, pintail.

o 2 redheads, female mallards.

o 3 scaup, total lesser and greater.

¥ Geese: 4 of any kind, Canada, white-fronted, Ross' or snow goose, except in Fremont and Teton counties, which are closed to Ross' and snow geese.

¥ Coots: 25.

¥ Common snipe: 8.

Possession after first day of season:

¥ Ducks: 14 of any kind, including not more than:

o 2 canvasbacks, pintails.

o 4 redheads, female mallards.

o 6 scaup, total lesser and greater.

¥ Geese: 8 of any kind, except in Fremont and Teton counties, which are closed to Ross' and snow geese.

¥ Coots: 25.

¥ Common snipe: 16.

Hunters 16 or older must buy a federal Migratory Duck Stamp. They are available at Idaho Department of Fish and Game offices, local post offices and some vendors. Please consult the regulations brochure or online for details.

Fish and Game Monitors Sage Grouse for West Nile

This year, sage grouse deaths from West Nile virus have been reported in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon - eight sage grouse have tested positive in Idaho.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologists are monitoring sage-grouse in response to the recent outbreak of the virus. This year, two sage grouse in Owyhee County, one in Twin Falls County and five on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation on the Idaho-Nevada border have tested positive for West Nile.

In addition, 16 sage grouse on the Duck Valley Reservation and about 30 sage grouse in Owyhee County have been found dead by tribal and department officials. West Nile infection is suspected in most of them.

Livestock operators and antelope hunters also have reported seeing unusual numbers of dead sage grouse in Owyhee County.

Many birds are susceptible to West Nile, including crows, magpies and ravens. In recent years, sage grouse in Wyoming, California, Colorado, Montana and Alberta have died from the virus.

Department biologists are checking on about 150 radio-collared sage grouse on eight study areas in Idaho. Their status will help biologists know more about the extent of the infection in the state. Fish and Game and other agency biologists also have been alerted to collect any reported sick or dead sage grouse.

Sage grouse in most of Idaho are not known to be infected with West Nile, but the department asks anyone who sees sick or dead sage grouse to contact the department as soon as possible. Dead sage grouse can be refrigerated and taken to a department office.

Because West Nile is a mosquito-borne disease, the risk of handling a potentially infected sage grouse is minimal. Cooking to over 170 degrees kills all viruses in all meat, including gamebirds.

To report sick or dead sage grouse contact any Fish and Game regional office or the Idaho Wildlife Health Lab in Caldwell at 454-7638.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. Can I carry a handgun while hunting during archery or muzzleloader seasons?

A. It is legal to carry a handgun while hunting. But it is not legal to kill an animal during archery or muzzleloader seasons with anything other than a bow or muzzle-loading musket or rifle. If an animal is wounded, the hunter should put another arrow or musket ball into it. Taking a big game animal with a rim-fire- or center-fire-cartridge firearm during an archery- or muzzleloader-only hunt is considered a flagrant violation, which can result in a one-year to lifetime loss of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges.

Dam at McAarthur Lake to be Repaired

Lake Level Must be Lowered to Complete Project

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) announced plans to repair the dam at the McArthur Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Naples and north of Elmira. Work is scheduled to begin September 11.

Concerns about the structure were first indicated in February, 2006 when slumping of the earthen portion of the dike on the south side of the dam was discovered. The Idaho Department of Water Resources investigated the condition of the dam and determined that several cubic feet of material had been lost by water and soil movement through the dam. An engineering firm was then contracted to inject dye into the soil to ascertain where the soil was moving through the earthen dam.

For repairs to be completed, the lake must be drawn down. The drawdown began on August 25.

Periodic drawdown of any reservoir is beneficial to fish and wildlife. McArthur Lake was last drawn down in 2002 for wetland management purposes and would have been due for another drawdown in the not too distant future.

Benefits of a drawdown include the facilitation of nutrient cycling, increased plant diversification, increased area occupied by emergent plants, and rendering of food items valuable to fish and wildlife. During the 2002 drawdown, a significant increase in selected habitat for shorebirds and loafing waterfowl was observed.

The McArthur WMA property was obtained by IDFG in 1942, and the earthen dam was constructed in 1944 impounding about 200 acres. Further land acquisitions in 1964 allowed the IDFG to replace the original structure and in 1965 the dike was raised and major concrete spillway and a fish bypass were constructed increasing the reservoir to its current size of 600 acres.

Fire Improves Forest Health, Wildlife Habitat

By Miles Benker-Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Thick, white smoke rises high above the ridge. A fire crew walks along the freshly dug fire line, watching carefully as the brush snaps and crackles. The flames move slowly; the crew is pleased.

Far different than several current wildfires burning out of control, this fire was intentionally set this spring by fire experts and is called a controlled or prescribed fire.

In some areas where fire has been kept from its natural role, state and federal agencies have set prescribed fires to mimic natural fire and improve landscape health and community safety. These managed fires are timed to occur, generally in the spring and late fall, when conditions are favorable and fire danger is low.

There is a need and a place for fire's historical role on the landscape. In recent years, the U.S. Forest Service has allowed some lightning-ignited fires to burn for habitat benefits. Many of these fires burn in rugged areas that are remote and inaccessible, and they present little risk to people and property.

During the hot, dry summers, however, some fires need to be fought aggressively to protect forest communities and private property.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, toured the Clearwater Region by airplane and pledged to see that more fires are allowed to burn on federal lands to benefit elk habitat. Crapo was instrumental in forming the Clearwater Elk Collaborative through an elk summit in Lewiston three years ago. This working group provided several recommendations to improve elk habitat, including the use of fire and some logging.

Preliminary Chukar Survey Results Mixed

The preliminary results of aerial surveys of chukar numbers at Brownlee were not encouraging, but Lucky Peak looked better.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists completed aerial surveys in the Brownlee and Lucky Peak areas on August 31 and September 1.

Though biologists counted an all time high number of groups of birds at Brownlee, the group sizes were disappointing. It appears production was very poor in the past year. They counted about 71 birds per square mile. But the total of 858 birds was down 59 percent from last year, and the lowest since 1993 when the count was 211 birds.

The 10-year average is 1,450 birds.

The news was better at Lucky Peak, which biologists have been flying every other year instead of annually like Brownlee. They counted about 27 birds per square mile. The total of 269 birds, down 34 percent from 1987's best on record 409 birds.

The count was slightly above the 10-year average of 266. Results also indicated good numbers of groups, but fewer birds per group than the long term average suggests reduced production this year.

Biologists suspect a rainy spring may have resulted in the low production this year. Survival apparently was normal to good.

Idaho Salmon & Steelhead Days Marks 10 Years

Idaho Salmon and Steelhead Days, a special event for Idaho fifth-graders, will take place again this year at Fish and Game Headquarters in Boise, Wednesday through Friday, September 6 - 8.

The three-day event celebrates the uniqueness of salmon and steelhead. Nearly 2,500 5th graders, parents, and teachers will attend the event to learn about salmon through hands-on activities.

The event is dedicated to the students, with one evening set aside for a salmon barbecue that is open to the general public. Students participate in hands-on activities while learning about these unique fish, their habitat and the past and present relationship between humans and salmon.

The Idaho Salmon & Steelhead Days Salmon BBQ runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, September 6, at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 600 South Walnut St., Boise. The barbecue raises money to pay for next year's daytime activities.

Activities during the barbecue include live music by the Bitterbrush Blues Band, gyotaku fish printing and Kids In the Creek. The Nature Center stream walk will be open for viewing live Chinook and kokanee salmon.

Tickets for the barbecue are $10 for adults and $3 for children. Tickets are limited and sold first-come, first-served.

The three day event is noncommercial, nonprofit and not politically oriented. A partnership of agencies, organizations, businesses and corporations finance, plan and execute the annual event.

Land Use Summit Planned

The Idaho Land Use Summit is set for September 14 and 15 at the Nampa Civic Center.

The two-day conference will focus on Idaho's ever increasing growth and development and balancing growth with fish and wildlife resources, associated recreation, and rural lifestyles.

The summit planners hope to bring together landowners, hunters, anglers, ranchers, farmers, developers, politicians, county commissioners, land trusts, and nongovernment organizations to discuss growth and to promote conservation of Idaho's rural quality of life and wildlife resources in balance with development.

The summit is of interest to anyone concerned with how development and growth affect rural Idaho. This includes hunters, anglers, ranchers, farmers, wildlife viewers, residents, and government officials wrestling with these issues.

Registration costs $75 and includes two lunches and a barbecue dinner. Registration is open to all who are interested. For information, to register, or to get a hotel room go to: http://www.ictws.org/summit.html.

Steelhead Season Opens

The Idaho steelhead harvest fishing season for most steelhead waters opened Friday, September 1.

The low early numbers returning to Idaho may mean fewer steelhead caught early in the fall fishing season, but that doesn't always mean it'll be a bad year. The average harvest during the fall seasons from 2002 to 2005 is 36,000 steelhead. Of that, about 2,000 were caught in September, 13,000 in October, 14,700 in November and 6,400 in December.

So even if the fish are a couple of weeks late getting back to Idaho, the fishing still should be best in October and November as it has been in past years.

The steelhead season is open on the Salmon River, the Little Salmon River, and the Snake River downstream from Hells Canyon Dam. Anglers may fish for steelhead on the Clearwater River, but they may not keep any fish upstream from the U.S. Highway 12 Memorial Bridge until October 15.

All anglers fishing for steelhead, even catch-and-release, must have a valid 2006 fishing license and steelhead permit. Statewide limits for steelhead are three per day, nine in possession, and 20 for the season, except for the Clearwater River system where the limits are two per day, six in possession, and 20 for the season.

Steelhead anglers must use barbless hooks, and can keep only hatchery steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin. All other steelhead must be released unharmed immediately.

Consult 2006-2007 fishing rules brochure for exceptions and special restrictions. For more information on steelhead fishing in Idaho, check the Fish and Game Website http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Fires Close Backcountry Trails, Road

Several large fires burning in Idaho's backcountry have raised concerns about public safety and hunter access.

In the interest of public safety the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have closed some areas. Other areas may be closed as fires grow or new fires start.

These closures may affect some hunting units, or access to hunting units. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will not close any hunts or change season dates in response to fire restrictions. But the department will accommodate hunters unable to participate because of fire.

Hunters whose hunting area was inaccessible because of fire closures during the entire hunting season may submit a written request for a refund or rain check to the License Section at the end of the season. The request must include details of the situation and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The only up front option for hunters is to voluntarily exchange a controlled hunt tag for a general tag in another area before the season opens. Hunters are encouraged to use their licenses and tags this year. Many areas not affected by fires are open for hunting and many seasons are long.

In conjunction with the Idaho Department of Lands policy, Fish and Game will prohibit open fires and campfires on all Fish and Game public access sites in Southwest Idaho, effective after midnight August 31, until the order is otherwise rescinded.

Hunters, as well as anyone else heading into the backcountry, are advised to check with Forest Service Ranger District offices before heading out.

Hunters: Give Us Your Jaws

If you're a big game hunter, Fish and Game would like your jaw; the jaw of your cow elk or doe mule deer that is. The jaws are needed as part of an effort to better estimate the age structure of certain elk and deer populations across Idaho.

"If we can collect enough lower jaws from female elk and deer, we can estimate the age structure of the female segment of several elk and deer populations," Fish and Game wildlife research biologist Craig White said. "That information is critical to better determine the status of these big game populations."

Hunters harvesting cow elk or doe mule deer from hunt units 23, 28, 32, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 36, 36A, 36B, 39, 43, 44, 45 (deer only), 48 (elk only) and 50 are asked to leave the lower jaw from their harvested animal at one of three locations: a Fish and Game check station, Fish and Game regional office or a jaw barrel. Barrels will be placed at strategic points for jaw collection, and information cards will be available at all collection points to record simple information such as the unit where the animal was harvested.

Please contact the Fish and Game Nampa office (465-8465), McCall office (634-8137), Jerome office (324-4359), or Salmon office (756-2271) with questions regarding the big game age structure study.

Horsethief Reservoir to be Drained/Treated

Horsethief Reservoir's yellow perch population, offspring of their illegally stocked ancestors, will soon get the boot thanks to action taken by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The reservoir's once robust trout fishery has suffered since the illegally planted yellow perch were first spotted in Horsethief back in 2003. "We've been monitoring the perch population since then," Fish and Game Fisheries manager Dale Allen noted. "This summer, fishing for trout has been severely impacted by the stunted perch population, and the only remedy to restore Horsethief's trout fishery is to drain the reservoir down slowly after Labor Day until it is dry, and restock the reservoir with trout next spring." Fish and Game has taken this same control action twice before at Horsethief, both times because of illegally introduced perch.

Fish and Game is now requesting comments and concerns about the proposed draining of Horsethief Reservoir. Correspondence related to this project should be sent to Dale Allen -Regional Fishery Manager at the Fish and Game McCall Office, 555 Deinhard Lane, 83638 or by phone at 208-634-8137.

Allen expects the removal process to take about two months, concluding sometime in late October. Some perch will be salvaged and the reservoir will be opened (sometime during the process) to fish salvage by anglers. Once the reservoir is drained, biologists will apply rotenone, a fish toxicant, to any remaining waters behind the dam. In the spring of 2007, the reservoir will be restocked with catchable rainbow trout and brown trout fingerlings.

Horsethief Reservoir, a Fish and Game-owned reservoir, is managed for trout fishing, and is as popular a destination for campers as it is anglers.

Illegal introductions of fish, including yellow perch at Horsethief, are extremely costly to Fish and Game, and ultimately to license buyers both in terms of direct monetary costs as well as lost recreational fishing opportunities.