Press Release


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Revenue Increase Sought, Steelhead Season Forecast

Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners approved a proposed 20 percent revenue increase and several legislative proposals, and they heard a forecast for the steelhead season and proposed white sturgeon management plan.

The prospect for a steelhead season is nearly the same as last year, fisheries bureau chief Ed Schriever reported to the commissioners.

The forecast return to Idaho this year is for about 144,000 hatchery and wild fish - only a little less than 2007, which saw a return of just over 153,000. Of the fish returning this year, about 123,000 are hatchery fish.

Chinook season this year was "some of the best salmon fishing we've had in Idaho," for the parts of the river open, Schriever told commissioner. The statewide average was 13.3 hours per fish kept.

Sockeye also are making news this year. More than 800 sockeye have crossed Lower Granite Dam, the last of eight federal dams the fish must pass on their way back to Idaho. An estimated 25 percent of those are jacks, Schriever said.

Fishery officials attribute the increase this year to good production, migration conditions and ocean conditions, he said.

The number of sockeye that make it to the Stanley Basin depends on stream flows and water temperatures. This year the stream flow is good and temperatures are low, meaning more fish than average are expected to return to reach the Sawtooth Valley.

The Fish and Game Commission approved releasing a proposed white sturgeon management plan for public review and comment.

The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America, reaching lengths of 15 feet and living up to 100 years. They once inhabited the Snake River up to Shoshone Falls, fishery biologist Scott Grunder told commissioners.

Fish and Game's management plan includes co-operation with other agencies and recreational fishing opportunities for this once abundant native fish. Over fishing, water management and quality, and habitat changes are part of the reasons for a lower abundance.

The commissioners also approved a series of legislative proposals:

  • A 20 percent revenue increase.
  • License exemptions for disabled veterans and free tags to participate in a special hunt program, similar to the current program for children with life-threatening illnesses.
  • Change ban on helicopters to all aircraft to keep bush planes from landing on two-tracks in the desert or open country for locating game from the air and landing and hunting.
  • Change reimbursable damages to include protected wildlife - change to say "protected fish and wildlife" instead of game animals, birds or fish or furbearer. Would not include wildlife classified as unprotected or as predators.
  • Change captive wildlife permits to include any species of wildlife found in the state, instead of just big game animals. Would not cover privately raised game birds already covered by the Idaho Department of Agriculture.

The proposed legislation included a 20 percent revenue increase for the 2010 fiscal year. The increase would include possible fee increases and other revenue sources to cover services Fish and Game provides but that are not funded.

The 2010 budget will be submitted without a fee increase by September 1. Any revenue increase would be described in a separate bill submitted to the Legislature.