Press Release

May 2018

Ten fish to try for Memorial Day weekend fishing trips

If your Memorial Day weekend doesn’t include some fishing, you’re missing a lot of fun. Spring is among Idaho’s best time of year for angling because water conditions are ideal in many places, and Fish and Game is stocking thousands of trout for anglers to catch. 

Fish and Game offers a variety of fishing opportunities, so while this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a way to focus on some of the highlights of the fishing that's available for the holiday weekend, and beyond, and here are places where you can catch them. 

Remember when packing for the weekend to load your fishing gear, and if you haven’t already bought your 2018 fishing license, do it at one of the many license vendors throughout the state. Then you can try your luck at catching some of these fish, and for more information, check out our Fish Planner, which provides maps, descriptions, amenities, rules and more each body of water in the state. 

F&G Commission postpones decision on summer Chinook fishing season

A late Chinook salmon return prompted Fish and Game commissioners on May 10 to postpone a decision on setting summer fishing seasons on the Clearwater, South Fork of the Salmon and Upper Salmon rivers. 

Spring chinook fishing is currently open on several rivers, but fish have been slow to return and by Monday, May 14, less than 800 spring Chinook had crossed Lower Granite Dam about 25 miles downstream from Lewiston. That’s less than 5 percent of the 10-year average for that date. 

However, more than 46,000 spring Chinook have crossed Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River since May 13, which is the first dam the fish cross after leaving the Pacific. Some of those fish, and more behind them, are bound for Idaho. 

A few summer Chinook bound for the South Fork of the Salmon River have already crossed Bonneville Dam, but it’s too early to tell how many more are coming. The preseason forecast is for enough summer Chinook to return to provide for a fishing season. 

“We’re waiting to see what’s going on with the fish before open the summer season up,” said Lance Hebdon, Fish and Game’s anadromous fish manager. 

The spring Chinook run is running late and was late last year, too. Hebdon noted that typically about 50 percent of the spring Chinook have crossed Bonneville Dam by mid May, but last year, it was closer to May 20 that half the fish had crossed Bonneville. 

Hebdon said it’s hard to tell what portion of the spring run has already crossed Bonneville considering it’s a late return. 

He noted a late return of spring fish does not necessarily mean the summer return will follow suit, but fish managers need a better understanding of how many are coming before proposing a summer season. 

Last year, summer Chinook fishing was open on the Clearwater, Lochsa and Upper Salmon Rivers, but a season on the South Fork of the Salmon River was canceled because of a smaller-than-expected return. 

Mountain lion found in Pocatello tranquilized and relocated

On the morning of Friday, May 11, Fish and Game personnel tranquilized and removed an adult male mountain lion near the campus of Idaho State University in Pocatello.  It was transported and released to a remote location in southeast Idaho the same day.

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Idaho Fish and Game

Fish and Game responded after receiving a call from ISU Public Safety shortly after 10:30 a.m. that a mountain lion was in a tree along the Red Hill Trail behind Mountain View Cemetery.  ISU Public Safety and the Pocatello Police Department personnel were already on the scene when Fish and Game arrived.

It took over an hour to dart and remove the mountain lion. Fish and Game personnel at the site reported that the lion was in very good condition and unharmed by the incident. 

Clearwater Region Chinook Update (5/11/18)

Message from Fisheries Manager, Joe DuPont

Run Size 

Since I talked to you last week, we have seen counts of adult Chinook Salmon over Bonneville Dam pick up considerably only to drop back down.  The counts were actually fairly exciting for five days and brought us up from the 6th worst count ever at Bonneville (out of 80 years) to the 22nd worst.  So, I would say things are looking much better.  

I have put together a couple of graphs for you below to give you a feel for how counts are progressing at Bonneville Dam.  What is interesting is how closely this year’s counts are tracking to what occurred last year.  Not only is the run definitely late, but just like last year, we saw a sudden spike in salmon counts followed by a marked decline (see second graph).  As I indicated last week, I was expecting this with flows over Bonneville Dam projected to pick up.  

The third graph below compares last year’s flow data (gage height) below Bonneville Dam (USS 14128870) to this year’s.  This data suggests that once flows exceed a gage height of about 28 (about 420,000 cfs) it starts impeding fishing passage (indicated by red dotted line on graph).  Unfortunately, flows are projected to remain above this level for at least the next week, so daily counts below 2,000 may be the norm for a while.  

Some good news is NOAA fisheries reported that only 18% of the Chinook Salmon they tagged in their test netting in the lower Columbia have shown up at Bonneville Dam or Willamette Falls.  This suggests there still are a lot of fish waiting to make their way upstream.

Watch for wildlife on roads during spring migration

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Hilary Turner

Mule deer, elk and other animals' spring movements have begun in the Island Park area and elsewhere in Idaho. As a result, the number of vehicle collisions with wildlife along U.S. 20 in the Island Park area is dramatically increasing.

Migratory deer and elk follow the spring green-up as they move from winter to summer ranges and birthing areas, and these seasonal migrations occur throughout the state.

Motorists should keep an eye out for migrating animals on the road, especially in mornings and evenings when light is low and animals are most active. Remember that seeing one deer in the road can mean there are possibly more coming. Driver awareness can help reduce dangerous and expensive wildlife/vehicle collisions, and protect wildlife as pregnant females are about give birth.

Dollar donation of controlled hunt fee can help Idaho’s anti-poaching effort

Hunters can help stop a game thief by designating a dollar to Idaho’s Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) program when applying for controlled hunts this spring.

When hunters agree to designate $1 to CAP, they’ll simply redirect that dollar and their application fee remains the same.

CAP does not receive any funding from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, so a one dollar donation is critical to the CAP poaching hotline.

CAP is a non-profit citizen organization, managed by a volunteer board, who work in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. CAP has a 24-hour hotline where citizens can report wildlife crimes, and remain anonymous if they choose. Callers may also receive a reward.

The CAP hotline received 1,236 calls from citizens reporting suspected Fish and Game violations in 2017. These concerned citizens were paid $31,300 in reward money.

“Donations provide funding for rewards,” said Chris Wright, Fish and Game assistant enforcement chief. “You will simply be directing that dollar to be used by Citizens Against Poaching, but your controlled hunt application fee will remain the same.”

CAP calls are vital to helping Fish and Game's Conservation Officers catch poachers, as was the case in a recent conviction of two men who illegally killed several elk. 

Citizens who witness fish and game violations are encouraged to call the CAP hotline number at 1-800-632-5999, call any law enforcement authority, or report online at https://idfg.idaho.gov/poacher.

Fish and Game Commission approves grizzly bear hunt

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population has met federal recovery criteria since the early 2000s. The state of Idaho and its professional wildlife managers played a key part in this population’s recovery, in partnership with other states, and federal, tribal and local governments.

Clearwater Region Chinook Update 5/4/18

Message from Clearwater fisheries manager, Joe DuPont.

Run Size

Well, things are looking better than last week.  Last week counts at Bonneville Dam were the worst we had ever seen for that time of year (April 26).  Now (as of 5/3/18) we have moved up five spots to the 6th worst out 80 years of counting fish at Bonneville Dam.  To give you a feel for how our counts compare to last year and the 10 year average, I put together the graph below for your viewing pleasure.  We obviously have a ways to go before we are comfortable with what we are seeing.  There is some good news though.  Yesterday (5/3/18) we had our highest count of the year (2,705), and based on the number of PIT-tags that are passing over Bonneville, it looks like counts should increase today as well.  

Apply now for Idaho's Super Hunt drawing

Hunters hoping to enter Idaho’s first Super Hunt drawing have through May 31 to apply.

With every entry in Fish and Game's Super Hunt drawings, hunters get a chance at winning the hunt of a lifetime, and each entry helps support hunter and angler access to and across private lands.

Super Hunt entries are $6 each. Super Hunt Combo entries are $20 each. No license is required to enter a Super Hunt drawing, and hunters can enter as many times as they like. 

The first drawing will be for eight elk, eight deer, and eight pronghorn, and one moose hunt. One Super Hunt Combo entry also will be drawn that will entitle the winner to hunt for all four species - elk, deer, pronghorn and moose. Winners will be notified by June 10.

A second drawing will be for two elk, two deer, two pronghorn, and one moose hunt. Another Super Hunt Combo entry will also be drawn. The entry period for the second drawing is June 1 through August 10, with winners notified by August 20.

Winners can participate in any open hunt in the state for deer, elk, pronghorn or moose, including general hunts and controlled hunts, in addition to any general season or controlled hunt tags they also hold. All other rules of individual hunts apply.

Hunters may enter the drawings at license vendors, Fish and Game offices, online at https://idfg.idaho.gov/superhunt, or by calling 1-800-554-8685.

For more information, including frequently asked questions and photos of previous winners, visit the Super Hunt page on Fish and Game's website at https://idfg.idaho.gov/superhunt.

Anglers can expect big smallmouth bass at Dworshak Reservoir, but below-average numbers of kokanee

With spring well underway and weather improving, many anglers are heading to Dworshak Reservoir, and Fish and Game's fisheries managers have offered their forecast for the upcoming months. 

Kokanee

The one constant with reservoir's kokanee population is that it is constantly changing from year to year. Kokanee numbers declined from a record high in 2015 to a typical number last year (around 210,000 fish). This year, we expect the number of kokanee to decline again, to about 150,000 catchable fish. This is lower than typical, but it isn’t uncommon to have fewer than 100,000 fish.

As always, the wildcard is entrainment, or the loss of fish through the dam. High-elevation snowpack is higher than normal this year, and dam operators have been forced to spill more water than normal to make room for the impending run off. This scenario often leads to high entrainment. In response, Fish and Game has already opened a salvage fishery in the North Fork and mainstem Clearwater Rivers below the dam. This doesn’t mean a lot of fish are being entrained, but allows angers the opportunity to salvage fish if and when they are. High entrainment could mean even lower numbers of kokanee in the reservoir.

On the bright side, fewer fish in the reservoir means that the average size should be bigger than normal. In a typical year, 2 year old kokanee average 10 inches by July. Anglers I’ve talked to early this year have been consistently catching 10 ½ inch fish, and fish up to 13 inches are not uncommon. So, if bigger kokanee are more important to you than more kokanee, this should be one of your years.

Smallmouth

If you’re a bass fisherman, you’ve either been fishing Dworshak the last two years, or you’ve been missing out. The smallmouth population has been very healthy and growth of the larger fish has been incredible, particularly during years of high kokanee abundance.