With the irrigation season winding down and efforts to keep fish out of local ditches, irrigators who divert water from area rivers and streams are asked to call Idaho Fish and Game’s Screen Program at 756-6022 several days before shutting off their water for the season.
Irrigators are also asked to ramp down their flows over several days before turning ditches completely off. The gradual decrease in flow stimulates fish to migrate out of the irrigation system. Irrigators are also encouraged to leave a minimal flow of 50 inches (1 cfs) in the ditch to allow time for Fish and Game to collect any stranded fish. If requested, Fish and Game can turn down the headgate the rest of the way after any stranded fish are removed.
The success of this program was measured with a study that began in 2003 to count fish as they were returned back to the river after being diverted into a ditch system. 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 the ocean. Through the screening efforts, all fish are safely returned to the river.
Fish screens not only prevent the loss of salmon, but steelhead, trout, whitefish, and other fish species are safety returned as well.
The Screen Program currently operates and maintains over 281 fish screens, which are critical to helping rebuild Idaho’s salmon and steelhead runs. These efforts would not be possible without the support of local irrigators, landowners and area communities.