It’s been a little while since the Kootenai River burbot fishery reopened on Jan. 1, after a 26-year closure. Biologists didn’t know what to expect, and they were unsure how accessible about 45,000 burbot in the river would be to anglers.
“People who have never fished for burbot, and some who have never fished the Kootenai River, are finding success,” said fishery research biologist Ryan Hardy.
Some anglers have been lucky enough to take home fish between 20 to 30 inches.
Burbot fishing has been closed in Idaho since 1992 because of low populations, but a cooperative restoration effort in North Idaho has boosted burbot numbers and allows for some harvest while meeting conservation goals.
Burbot are a unique fish species native to the Kootenai Basin. The population there declined drastically beginning in the 1960s due to many factors (e.g., overfishing, dam operations, and land changes). Harvest fisheries were closed in the basin by the mid-1990s and remain closed today. Staff from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), Kootenai Tribe of Idaho (KTOI), and British Columbia Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (BCMFLNRO) have been collaborating to restore the Burbot population in the Kootenai Basin since the early 2000s.