Press Release

January 2010

Fish and Game to Begin Big Game Aerial Surveys

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will begin aerial surveys of elk in management units 10 and 12 in the upper Clearwater Region beginning February 1.

The helicopter surveys are scheduled to cover areas the same time each year to make the information gathered comparable from year to year. The goal is to compare population trends, and age and sex ratios. This information allows biologists to be more precise in setting seasons and permit levels, which results in maximum opportunity for hunters.

Besides finding big game animals congregated on lower elevation winter ranges, winter also bring two requirements needed to conduct accurate surveys - clear weather for good visibility and snow covering that aid in locating and identifying species. A helicopter flying low and slow over some of the most remote areas of the state is the most efficient tool for gathering big game herd information.

But using helicopters has its drawbacks. Time in the air is expensive, and finding qualified and experienced pilots is becoming more difficult as many veteran pilots have retired. In addition, and most importantly, low-level flying is dangerous. More than 50 Idaho Fish and Game employees have been involved in aircraft accidents; 10 have been killed.

In spite of the risks, helicopter surveys continue to provide wildlife managers with the best information to use in managing wildlife.

Fish and Game Commission Meets This Week

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider lowering nonresident deer tag fees during the annual meeting January 27-29 at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

The cost to hunt deer in Idaho is one of the highest of 11 western states. Fish and Game has recommended reducing nonresident general deer tags to $255 from the current $300. Commissioners will take up the issue on Thursday, January 28.

On Wednesday, January 27, commissioners will head to the Statehouse to meet with House Resources and Conservation Committee from 1:30 to 3:30 pm in the East Atrium Wing.

A public comment period will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Fish and Game headquarters, 600 S. Walnut.

On Thursday, January 28, the commission meeting will start at 8 a.m. with the posting of the colors and the pledge of allegiance, by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Honor Guard.

Later in the morning, commissioners will hear updates on the mandatory harvest reports and deer and elk status. They will consider upland game and furbearer seasons as well as a Bear Lake fishery management plan.

After lunch, they will hear updates on fishing rules for 2011-2012, on salmon forecasts and potential seasons, and a budget preview.

Commissioners also will hear an update on the ongoing wolf hunting season.

Idaho Fish and Game sold more than 25,700 resident wolf tags and 684 nonresident tags in 2009. To date, 140 wolves have been taken by hunters, and five more were either killed illegally or died as a result of wounding loss.

Five wolf management zones have closed where wolf harvest limits were met.

On Friday, January 29, commissioners will meet with the Senate Resources and Environment Committee from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the West Atrium Wing of the Statehouse.

Times on the agenda are approximate and subject to change.

Spring Steelhead Season Open

A sure cure for cabin fever - the spring steelhead season is under way, but anglers will need a 2010 fishing license and steelhead permit.

Spring steelhead season is open on the:

  • Salmon River from its mouth to the posted boundary 100 yards downstream of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery weir, near the town of Stanley.
  • Little Salmon River from its mouth to the U.S. Highway 95 bridge near Smokey Boulder Road.
  • Snake River from the Washington state line at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers upstream to Oxbow Dam.
  • Clearwater River mainstem and Middle Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to Clear Creek.
  • North Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to Dworshak Dam.
  • South Fork Clearwater River from its mouth to the confluence of American and Red Rivers.
  • Boise River from its mouth to the Barber Dam.

The season runs through April 30 in most areas, except:

  • On the Salmon River from Lake Creek Bridge to Long Tom Creek, about a quarter mile upstream of the Middle Fork, the season ends March 31.
  • On the Little Salmon River the season runs through May 15.
  • On the Snake River from Hells Canyon Dam upstream to Oxbow Dam, and on the Boise River upstream to Barber Dam, the season ends May 31.

Steelhead are in the Snake River between the Hells Canyon and Oxbow dams and the Boise River only when stocked by Idaho Fish and Game. Here steelhead are defined as rainbow trout longer than 20 inches with a clipped adipose fin.

About 1,500 steelhead were stocked in the Boise River; a similar number was stocked in the Snake River below the Oxbow Dam. Barbless hooks are not required in the Boise River or in the Snake River between Hells Canyon and Oxbow dams, but anglers must have a steelhead permit to fish for and keep steelhead.

Application Period for Spring Controlled Hunts Coming Up

The application dates for the spring turkey controlled hunts have been pushed back and will be from February 1 through March 1 to accommodate the late January meeting of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which will consider turkey seasons.

The application period for spring black bear controlled hunts already has started and runs through February 15.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 - some controlled hunts open later. Leftover tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

Hunters may apply for controlled hunts at any hunting and fishing license vendor, Fish and Game office; with a credit card by calling 1-800-55HUNT5 or 1-800-824-3729; or online at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov. The controlled hunt application fee is $6.25 per resident hunter and $14.75 per nonresident hunter.

An additional fee is charged for telephone and Internet applications.

Hunters must have a 2010 Idaho hunting license to apply.

From the Field: 2009 Chinook Salmon Fishery

By Jim Lukens, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Last summer, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission opened 130 miles of the Salmon River from Island Park in Salmon City upstream to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery for Chinook salmon fishing.

This was the first time in more than 30 years that salmon fishing had been opened on this much of the Salmon River. The season was open from June 20 through July 26. Initially fishing was quite difficult, mainly because of river conditions. Salmon River flows on opening day were 7,030 cubic feet per second, which is 40 percent greater than the 10-year average on that date making fishing challenging.

The first recorded Chinook kept was on June 28 near Sunbeam Dam. Throughout the season a total of 3,519 Chinook were harvested, of which 2,918 were adults (fish remaining in the ocean at least two years) and 601 were jacks (fish remaining in the ocean for only one year).

The peak of fishing success from Salmon City to the Pahsimeroi River occurred during the weekend of July 18 and 19. The peak of the fishery above the Pahsimeroi River occurred during the Fourth of July weekend. Anglers fished for more than 60,000 hours and averaged a salmon caught for every 12 hours of fishing.

A recently released pre-season forecast for the 2010 run of Snake River spring and summer Chinook salmon returning to Idaho indicates that fishing in 2010 should be every bit as good as it was in 2009 for Pahsimeroi Hatchery stocks. However, adult returns to Sawtooth Hatchery near Stanley are not expected to be adequate to provide a fishery above Ellis next summer.

As adult Chinook begin returning this spring, Fish and Game biologists will monitor returns closely and plan fishing seasons based on actual count numbers.

Jim Lukens is the regional supervisor in the Salmon Region.

Winter on the Boise River Wildlife Management Area

By Ed Bottum, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Winter is the time of year the Boise River Wildlife Management Area was created for.

During winter, the WMA functions at its "highest and best use," providing a place for one of Idaho's migratory mule deer herds to spend the winter in relative comfort. Relatively more comfortable say, than at higher elevations where snow depths are greater, temperatures lower and winter conditions last longer.

Winter is a time of stress for most animals when how well they fared during the summer months may determine whether or not they will see another summer. Mule deer and elk will spend the next few months using up their stored reserves of body fat while they wait until abundant food becomes available again next spring when plants begin to grow. In the meantime, they conserve their energy as much as possible while looking for things to eat to make their fat reserves last. If their fat reserves run out before food becomes available, they face starvation.

As so often happens, situations we think are straight forward sometimes turn out to be more complex than expected. Take winter recreation for example. Many people know how important it is for our physical and mental well being that we stay active. We might assume the same holds for mule deer and elk, too. Well, in fact, just the opposite is true for them. They spend their winters not moving around anymore than is necessary while finding food and favorable places to "hang." One day it might be out in the open on a sunny south-facing slope while on another it might be sheltering behind shrubs out of the wind on a darker, north-facing slope.

People whose winter recreation plans include a visit to Boise's foothills should remember that their presence in an area where big game spend the winter adds another stressor to a long list that wintering wildlife contend with every day.

Bald Eagle Days Feature Raptor Viewing

The 11th annual Bald Eagle Days, January 28-30, will feature events for all ages, including viewing bald eagles and other wildlife along the Boise River.

Bald Eagle Day, the signature event of the annual festivities, runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, January 30, at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, 5657 Warm Springs Ave.

This free, family-oriented event includes wildlife viewing along the Boise River with presentations featuring live bald eagles and other birds of prey, hands-on educational raptor displays and presentations on falconry and Boise River ecology.

Thursday and Friday, January 28 and 29, Treasure Valley school groups are invited to Barber Pool Conservation Area to learn about the Boise River and its importance to local wildlife. Live raptors and educational activities will foster awareness and a stewardship ethic for the river and its wildlife habitat during this educational event.

All will take place within the 700-acre natural reserve of public and private land along the Boise River, six miles east of downtown Boise. Barber Pool's black cottonwoods, wetlands and uplands are home to more than 200 bird species and more than 60 species of reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

The area is one of the last remaining intact black cottonwood stands within the rapidly-urbanizing Boise area. It is also ideal habitat for wintering bald eagles and eagles can be seen almost daily during the winter months.

The event is presented by Boise State University's Idaho Bird Observatory in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Shakespeare Festival and the Golden Eagle Audubon Society. Other organizations involved include the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands, Idaho Parks and Recreation, Idaho Environmental Education Association and the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center.

Ask Fish and Game: Ice Fishing

Q. Can I use a two-pole permit for ice fishing in Idaho?

A. A two-pole permit does not allow anglers to double the number of lines they can use when ice fishing. In most of the state, there are no restrictions on the number of holes an ice angler can drill, except they can't be more than 10 inches in diameter. An angler can fish with up to five poles or lines at a time, and up to five hooks per line, but a two-pole validation does not allow more than five lines while ice fishing. All lines must be attended by the angler. One exception is on Bear Lake, where a two-pole permit allows anglers to use two poles - even when ice fishing - and there is no limit on hole size for dip-netting cisco. Another exception is on Daniels, Springfield, Treasureton and Twenty-Four Mile reservoirs, where only one rod is allowed for ice-fishing. Check fishing rules book for exceptions.

F&G Plans Public Meetings on Big Game Seasons

Every year the Idaho Fish and Game works with hunters to consider changes to the regulations for the upcoming season.

The first step in this year's process will take place during the first week of February when Fish and Game hosts its first round of public meetings in Mackay, Idaho Falls and Rexburg.

All meetings start at 7 p.m.

  • Tuesday, February 2: Mackay High School Auditorium, Mackay.
  • Wednesday, February 3: Fish and Game regional office, Idaho Falls.
  • Thursday, February 4: Madison Middle School Media Center, Rexburg.

"We've collected a lot of information from our check stations and big game flights, and we'd like to share with sportsmen what we've found and find out where they want us to take things for next year's hunting seasons," Regional Wildlife Manager Daryl Meints said. "As a whole, deer numbers across the region look good. We've got an average of 78 fawns and 23 bucks per 100 does."

Biologists will also be discussing elk survey flight information from Sand Creek and Tex Creek Wildlife Management Areas. Harvest data for black bears and mountain lions will also be presented.

"Comments from our sportsmen will be used to help us craft our regional proposals that will be presented to the public during our next round of meetings at the start of March," Meints said.

Individuals with disabilities may request meeting accommodations by contacting Daryl Meints at Fish and Game, 208-525-7290 or through the Idaho Relay Service at 1-800-377-3529(TDD). Individuals not able to attend may comment via e-mail at daryl.meints@idfg.idaho.gov or by regular mail to Idaho Fish and Game, 4279 Commerce Circle, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401.

Officers Find More Wildlife Violations in Bingham County

Idaho Fish and Game is seeking information about the killing of a mule deer in Big Game Management Unit 63 sometime between January 10 and 17.

The animal's carcass was discovered west of Blackfoot, Idaho, near 1000 West and north of Highway 26.

Officials assume the animal was a buck since the head was taken from the body. All of the meat was also removed.

Taking a deer during a closed season is a flagrant violation and the perpetrator could incur fines, face jail time, and lose privileges to hunt for a lifetime. Furthermore, if the buck was classified as a "trophy", measuring over 150 points for Boone & Crockett, the act would carry a $2,000 civil penalty.

Fish and Game is also investigating an incident in Bingham County. Four Canada geese were removed from a trash can at Jensen's Grove in Blackfoot on January 20. The reporting party informed the investigating officer that the geese had been there for some time.

Total penalties associated with this crime include a civil penalty of $50 per bird plus fines, court costs, and possible loss of hunting license for three years.

If anyone has any information regarding these wildlife violations, please contact Tom Burkhart, senior conservation officer with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, at 251 - 4507.

To provide information anonymously, contact the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Rewards are available through CAP for information that leads to an arrest.

Lake Pond Oreille Kokanee Recovery Shows Positive Signs

Biologists and anglers working to recover the kokanee population in Lake Pend Oreille have reasons to be encouraged by progress seen in 2009.

After more than a decade of lake level management to benefit shoreline spawning kokanee and four years of an aggressive predator reduction program, the kokanee population is showing some positive signs.

The first encouraging sign came in the fall with the annual population estimates. Each year fishery researchers use hydroacoustics and trawl nets to estimate the population of each age-class of kokanee. The estimates can be compared with previous years to evaluate survival. Though overall abundance was still low, juvenile kokanee survival was the highest seen since 1996. More than 70 percent of last year's one-year-old kokanee survived to become two-year-olds this year. This represents a seven-fold increase from a low of 10 percent survival two years ago.

No one was happier to see those results than Andy Dux, the research biologist charged with monitoring the population.

"Last year we saw an increase from 10 percent survival to 30 percent survival, and we were pleased with that, so to see it more than double this year, is really exciting," he said.

More good news came later in the fall during the kokanee spawning season. Each year a trap is set up in Granite Creek to collect kokanee returning to spawn. Eggs are stripped from many of the fish. The resulting offspring are raised in Cabinet Gorge Hatchery and later released into the lake.

Typically, 10 to 15 million eggs are collected each year at the trap. In the past two years, however, it's been nowhere close to that, with just over one million eggs taken between both years combined.

"Although the hatchery is not the key to recovery of the Pend Oreille fishery," regional fisheries manager Jim Fredericks said, "it represents one very important component. Getting 8.25 million eggs is a real boost this year."

Fish and Game Commission to Meet in Boise

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider lowering the price for nonresident deer tags during the annual meeting January 27-29 at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

On Wednesday, January 27, commissioners will meet with the House Resources and Conservation Committee from 1:30 to 3:30 pm in the East Atrium Wing of the Statehouse.

A public comment period will begin at 7 p.m. at Fish and Game headquarters, 600 S. Walnut.

On Thursday, January 28, the commission meeting will start at 8 a.m. with the posting of the colors and the pledge of allegiance by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Honor Guard.

Later in the morning, commissioners will hear updates on the mandatory harvest reports and deer and elk status.

Commissioners will consider upland game and furbearer seasons as well as a Bear Lake fishery management plan.

After lunch, they will hear updates on fishing rules for 2011-2012, on salmon forecasts and potential seasons, and a budget preview.

They also will consider a fee reduction for nonresident deer tags. The cost to hunt deer in Idaho is the highest of 11 western states. Fish and Game has recommended reducing nonresident deer tags to $255 from the current $300.

Commissioners also will hear an update on the ongoing wolf hunting season.

On Friday, January 29, commissioners will meet with the Senate Resources and Environment Committee from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the West Atrium Wing of the Statehouse.

Times on the agenda are approximate and subject to change.