Idaho trout anglers can catch cash prizes while enjoying their sport and, at the same time, help Fish and Game researchers improve the hatchery program.
What researchers want to know is which hatcheries are producing the most catchable of catchable trout. The three million or so trout Fish and Game plants every year are meant to be taken by anglers; planting trout that are not caught does not help fish populations in the long term and is not an effective use of anglers' license dollars. Researchers have seen evidence over the years to indicate that certain hatcheries may be turning out a more often caught trout than other hatcheries do. With the help of anglers this year, they intend to try to learn whether that is true.
Tagging some trout and paying prizes to anglers who return the tags is more cost effective than doing the more traditional creel census. The tagged trout will go into easily accessible, popular fishing waters in southern Idaho including Lava Lake, Dierkes Lake, Mountain Home Reservoir, Dog Creek Reservoir, Park Center Pond in Boise, Blair Trail, Sublette Reservoir, Cove Arm Reservoir, Little Camas, Deep Creek, Roseworth Reservoir, Mann Creek Reservoir, Hawkins, Magic Reservoir, Featherville and Horsethief Reservoir. All the waters are located in the Magic Valley and Southwest Regions. The trout will come from Fish and Game's three biggest hatcheries_Nampa, Hagerman and American Falls.
This spring, 650 tagged fish will be released in each of the 16 lakes. Fish and Game is asking anglers to remove these tags from any fish caught from the 16 lakes and mail them back to the Jerome Regional Office. All returned tags will be entered into a drawing where there will be a winner from each of the 16 lakes. Each of the 16 winners will receive $50. Here is how the reward system will work: Catch a rainbow trout with a jaw tag, return the tag to Fish and Game and be entered in a drawing for $50 (drawing date after the general season closes). Or, catch a fish with a jaw tag with "$$ 10 $$" stamped on them and receive $10 (mailed within two months).
Fisheries Researcher Doug Megargle said "use of reward tags, when combined with public participation, actually saves the department considerable funds when compared to more expensive methods of collecting fish harvest information".