The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, meeting in Jerome November 18, adopted new seasons and rules for 2011-2012.
The rules come with two major changes: a new "newspaper" format for the rule brochure, and year-round seasons will be the rule, rather than the exception.
The open year-round-season rule is a way to limit the number of rule exceptions, fisheries Chief Ed Schriever told commissioners. Many Idaho streams already are open year round, but they are listed as exceptions because statewide the general season for rivers and streams is from Memorial Day through November 30. The new rules make rivers and stream open year-round the rule and those that have special seasons will now be listed as exceptions.
Special seasons and gear restrictions were maintained in rivers and streams where continued protection remains necessary to meet fishery objectives.
The rules and seasons also are presented regionally, which further reduces the number of exceptions. The result is a thinner book, and a format that fisheries managers think will be easier to understand.
Two other changes that have raised some public concern affect the Snake River below the American Falls Dam, and an extended ice-fishing season on Henrys Lake.
In the Snake River from the dam downstream to Eagle Rock the harvest season would end October 15, and a catch-and-release season would run from October 16 through the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend.
This is a social issue balanced with biological issues, Southeast Region Commissioner Randy Budge said. In most years water drops about the middle of October and the river is reduced to channels in basalt. Some have raised legitimate concern with ethics.
"There is a perception that people take out big fish during the end of harvest season after water drops," Budge said. He proposed the earlier closure of the harvest season, which was adopted unanimously.
In Henrys Lake, a month-long ice-fishing season, which closes November 30, was extended through January 1, 2012.
Upper Snake Region Commissioner Cameron Wheeler said there is no question that Henrys Lake is a highly-studied water. The decision comes down to a social issue; he said he would go with the biology and support the increased fishing opportunity. "This is not taken lightly. This is an extremely difficult decision."
The new rules booklet should be available to the public by the end of the year.