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Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

This is the second article in a series about the history of the conservation movement in the Magic Valley and the activities of the Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association. This article is a continuation about the history of the Rock Creek fish hatchery as described in a brochure entitled "Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association: History" produced by Lorayne O. Smith with the assistance of Les Hazen, Don Zuck, and Larry Drexler.

In the last article I discussed Walt Priebe, the "grand old man of wildlife conservation" in southern Idaho. Walter Priebe was instrumental in developing water sources for the Rock Creek hatchery from tunnels constructed by the Twin Falls Canal Co. to drain irrigation seepage from farm land south of Twin Falls. This water provided the life blood for the beginning of the Rock Creek hatchery.

During the same time Walt Priebe and the Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association was working on the Rock Creek hatchery, another group calling themselves the "B Club of Sportsmen," was forming and headed by Lud Drexler. After a series of meetings about similar goals the two organizations merged into the Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association.

Walter Priebe was quite concerned about adequate fishing opportunity in the new community around Twin Falls and began raising fish to help meet those needs. The Rock Creek hatchery began raising fish in washtubs. The hatchery expanded to dirt ponds and then to cement raceways. Walter Priebe would volunteer four hours each Sunday cleaning ponds. Despite his lack of formal aquaculture training fish flourished and were soon planted in area waters to enhance public fishing.

The Association was incorporated in November, 1928 so the Rock Creek fish hatchery could be legally operated to raise fish. A few years after incorporation, operation of the hatchery became burdensome due to problems with reliable volunteer workers. The hatchery was then leased to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for $1 per year with the stipulation that one-fourth of the fish produced would be planted at locations determined by Association club members.

At the conclusion of this series I will provide contact information to obtain one of these incredible brochures.

If you have any further questions you may call the Magic Valley Regional Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208)324-4350 or e-mail us at the Fish and Game web site at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.