Press Release

Irrigators reminded to contact Fish and Game before turning water on

To keep fish out of irrigation ditches, irrigators who divert water from local rivers and streams are asked to contact Idaho Fish and Game’s Anadromous Fish Screen Program (208-756-6022) one week prior to turning water on.

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Fish and Game will work to get all the fish screens in place and fully operational prior to use to avoid trapping fish behind the screens and out of irrigation ditches. 

Fortunately, Idaho Fish and Game’s screen program, water users, and landowners have been working together to prevent the loss of fish into ditch systems for well over 50 years.  The Screen Program currently operates and maintains over 270 fish screens that have been installed with the cooperation of landowners and water users.

The upper Salmon River and many of its tributaries provide critical habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead, and other fish to spawn and to rear as juveniles. Salmon and steelhead are anadromous fish, which spend the early part of their lives in fresh water as juveniles, eventually migrating downstream to the ocean for several years where they grow to adulthood before returning to spawn.

Salmon spawn in the early fall and steelhead in the spring.  After hatching, the juvenile fish will spend the next one to two years seeking out suitable habitat where they can find food and cover until they migrate downstream for their long journey to the ocean. It is during this time when these young fish are actively migrating downstream that they are at risk of being diverted into one of the many ditch systems.

The success of the screening program was measured with a study that counted fish as they were returned back to the river after being diverted. It was found that in the Lemhi River, up to 88 percent of all migrating juvenile Chinook salmon are diverted into at least one ditch system as they migrate to towards the ocean. 

Through the screening efforts, all of these fish are safely returned to the river.  Fish screens not only prevent the loss of Chinook salmon and steelhead, but sockeye salmon, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, bull trout, and mountain whitefish.

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