Tag Archives: idaho

New Report Paints Rough Future For Northwest Fish, Wildlife

A new report paints a rough go of it for fish, shellfish and wildlife in the Northwest.

Released over the recent long holiday weekend, the federal Fourth National Climate Assessment looks at economic and other impacts that warming and drying could have on our region by the end of this century.

It projects that Washington salmon habitat will be reduced by 22 percent under a scenario that includes continued high emissions of greenhouse gases.


“This habitat loss corresponds to more than $3 billion in economic losses due to reductions in salmon populations and decreases in cold-water angling opportunities,” the report states.

Higher fall and winter flows and less and warmer water in spring and summer will impact Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon spawning, hatchery production and reintroduction efforts.

“Recreational razor clamming on the coast is also expected to decline due to cumulative effects of ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, higher temperatures, and habitat degradation,” it adds.

A 2016 bloom affecting Washington’s South Coast led to a 25 percent increase in the number of local families in need of food bank help due to the importance of digging dollars, the report states.

It says that deer and elk may actually thrive due to less winterkill and improving habitat because of increased wildfires, but could also be impacted by “increases in disease and disease-carrying insects and pests.”

“If deer and elk populations increase, the pressures they place on plant ecosystems (including riparian systems) may benefit from management beyond traditional harvest levels,” it states.

With droughts and more drying hitting key wetland areas, “Further management of waterfowl habitat is projected to be important to maintain past hunting levels,” the report adds.

At its heart for the region, the assessment states that what we saw in 2015 due to the Blob — very low snowpack, early meltout, high summer temperatures, large wildfires — could be a prelude of what is to come.

“Low summer stream levels and warm waters, which amplified a naturally occurring fish disease, resulted in widespread fish die-offs across the region, including hundreds of thousands of sockeye salmon in the Columbia and Snake River Basins. And for the first time ever, Oregon implemented a statewide daily fishing curtailment beginning in July 2015 to limit added stress on the fish from fishing,” the report reminds readers.

In the ocean, that summer saw “the largest harmful algal bloom recorded” and it hyperlinks to a 2016 paper that lists cool-water species such as subarctic copepods, krill, Dungeness, mussels, salmon and groundfish as Blob losers while tropical copepods, market squid, California rockfish and tuna were winners because of the warm waters.

“This is worrisome because the [2013-15 warm water anomaly] may be a harbinger of things to come. As [sea surface temperatures] continue to rise with increasing global temperatures, many of the same scenarios observed during the WWA may be repeated, with dramatic ecological and economic consequences,” that paper in Oceanography states.

Required by Congress to be produced at regular intervals, this fourth climate assessment was worked on by 13 federal agencies with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the lead.

As for what to do to head off the changes, the report states:

“Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”

Snake On WA-ID Border To Stay Open For Steelhead To WA-Licensed Anglers

With a federal fisheries permit in hand, a WDFW steelhead manager says Washington-licensed anglers will be able to continue to fish the Snake shared with Idaho after IDFG announced their season would shut down in early December due to a lawsuit threat.


“We’re not going to close because we have ESA coverage and a Fisheries Management and Evaluation Plan,” said Chris Donley, the state regional fisheries manager in Spokane, this morning.

That plan was approved back in 2011 by the National Marine Fisheries Service and WDFW’s had federal coverage since 2007.

Donley said that Idaho anglers who have a Washington-issued fishing license and steelhead catch card can fish the shared Snake under that authorization.

He was quick to add that WDFW did not view this as a chance to make money off of Gem State guides and anglers who won’t be allowed to fish the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake after Dec. 7.

That’s because Idaho’s FMEP for steelhead and Chinook fisheries lapsed in 2010 and NMFS has yet to issue a new one, though a draft is out for comment now and could be in place by early next year.

It’s that lack of coverage — rather than this year’s low return of A- and B-runs — that allowed six organizations, including the Wild Fish Conservancy of Duvall and The Conservation Angler of Portland, to threaten IDFG with a lawsuit last month.

The groups said that if the agency didn’t close steelheading in Gem State waters by Dec. 9 to prevent harm to Endangered Species Act-listed wild steelhead, they would take the state to federal court.

IDFG balked at a proposed settlement because of the conditions it would have imposed — bait and boat bans, barbless hook restrictions, and a Jan. 1 closure — and instead of spending money on court costs and lawyers fees, the Fish and Game Commission voted 6-0 to shut fishing down.

Challenging it in court might have cost $50,000, according to a state attorney general’s estimate included in a Lewiston Tribune article out this morning.

Idaho’s decision still drew scathing comments from guide Kyle Jones, who on Facebook vented his “utter frustration” with the state’s lack of a permit and wondered how he was going to make up $20,000 in lost winter revenue.

This is practically the same play that WFC et al made in 2014 in Puget Sound with the Chambers Creek early winter steelhead program.

In that case it was the other piece of the regulatory puzzle, the lack of a federally approved hatchery genetic management plan covering fisheries over another ESA stock, that was the target of opportunity.

With seemingly ever-increasing listings throughout Western salmon and steelhead country, the paperwork has piled up on NMFS’s collective desk, and between that and other work it’s assigned, progress approving FMEPs and HGMPs has been slow, leaving state fishery agencies vulnerable to lawsuits.

According to Lewiston Tribune outdoor reporter Eric Barker’s article, David Moskowitz of The Conservation Angler said closing the fishery would have benefits, Idaho’s rejection of the deal offered was more social than biological, and the threat of litigation was “meant to send a signal to everyone who is supposed to take care of these fish.”

For WDFW’s Donley, summer steelhead returning to the Inland Northwest have been all but handled with kid gloves from the time the fish entered the Columbia at Buoy 10, with reduced limits, night and thermal refuge closures — even full closures on the mainstem — all the way upstream.

Absent a conservation concern, he’s left wondering what the organizations’ aim is.

“How many more wild fish does this create when we have so many hydropower, habitat and hatchery issues to overcome?” Donley says.

IDFG Director Blasts Groups’ Steelhead Lawsuit Threat, Agency Details What Closure Means

Idaho steelhead managers are providing more details on today’s decision by the Fish and Game Commission to suspend fishing for the species as of midnight, Dec. 9.


The citizen panel made the move this morning under threat of a federal lawsuit from six organizations, three from out of state, who told IDFG in October they would sue over the agency’s lack of a federal authorization to hold fisheries over ESA-listed stocks unless the agency closed the season.

Officials say that an attempt to settle the dispute was unsuccessful after the groups asked for bait and boat bans, barbless hook restrictions, a prohibition on removing wild steelhead completely out of the water and closing steelhead fishing after Jan. 1.

IDFG claimed that deal would have made for “a disproportionate loss of angling opportunity for a particular user group, while preserving fishing opportunity for another.”

In a nearly 700-word letter to Idaho steelheaders, outgoing Director Virgil Moore explained that the commission didn’t want to go to U.S. District Court, lose because NMFS “dropped the ball on permit renewal” and waste sportsmen’s dollars to “pay bills for advocacy-group lawyers instead of conservation”

“Having been involved in steelhead management as a professional biologist, and being a steelhead fisherman for over 40 years, I’m well aware how important steelhead fishing is to Idaho anglers and local economies,” he wrote. “The loss of that opportunity, even temporarily, due to a lawsuit and unprocessed permit is truly regrettable.”


The permit in question ran out in 2010 but IDFG has been able to hold seasons in subsequent falls and winters “in coordination with federal managers,” according to an FAQ staffers put together.

For fans of Idaho steelheading, this means two things:

Per IDFG, fishing for steelhead will be closed in the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater, and it will be “illegal” to target them while seasons remain open on those rivers for whitefish, trout, sturgeon, etc.

As for the shared Snake, IDFG says “If Oregon and Washington continue their steelhead fisheries, anglers with a valid fishing license issued by Oregon or Washington may fish for steelhead consistent with the rules of those states.”

A WDFW official confirmed that.

“Short answer is we will keep fishing. Idaho anglers will be required to have a Washington or Oregon license if they are fishing for steelhead” on the shared Snake, said Chris Donley, the regional fisheries manager out of Spokane.

The six groups are using a page out of the same playbook some used in Washington in 2014, identifying an expired federal permit that provides cover for state fisheries over ESA-listed runs, then threatening a lawsuit.

In this case, they claim wild steelhead have been harmed during hatchery steelhead and Chinook fisheries.

Without the NMFS permit, the state is vulnerable to the suit from The Wild Fish Conservancy and Wild Salmon Rivers of Washington, The Conservation Angler of Portland, and Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater and Snake River Waterkeeper, all based in Idaho.

But in its FAQs, IDFG states, “Angling has minimal impacts to wild steelhead and the majority (~85%) of the 5,000 miles of wild steelhead spawning and rearing habitat is closed to fishing.”

The agency says that most impacts on the fish occur downriver and that catch-and-release of wild fish has a 3 percent mortality rate.

Even so, a C&R fishery on even clipped steelhead can’t be kept open because it would accrue impacts on wild fish without a permit to do so.

As for when that permit will arrive, IDFG says it will take “a few months” for the feds to take public comment and finalize biops and other documentation, but it “may be completed in time to reopen the spring steelhead fishery,” which runs into April.

Idaho To Close Steelhead Season In Early Dec. Due To Lawsuit Threat

Editor’s update 11:45 a.m., Nov. 14, 2018: Due to the threat of a lawsuit, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission this morning has voted to suspend the state’s fall steelhead season after Dec. 7 and won’t open the spring season, which begins Jan. 1, 2019, until a fisheries plan is OKed by NMFS, per a report from Eric Barker at The Lewiston Tribune. He says the commission feared IDFG “would be on the hook for legal fees should the season continue and the groups follow through with their intent to sue.” Below is our earlier story on the issue.

Another state, another low-hanging-fruit lawsuit in the works by wild steelhead zealots against fishery agencies.

In 2014 it was WDFW and its Chambers Creek early winter program in Puget Sound; in 2018 it’s IDFG and its A- and B-runs.


The two agencies’ lack of federally approved management plans for hatchery operations and to hold fisheries more so than low runs leave them vulnerable to suits.

Washington’s was eventually settled out of court and a new plan is in place after several disrupted fishing seasons, but now Idaho is under threat.

In October, the Wild Fish Conservancy and Conservation Angler, along with Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater and Snake River Water Keeper notified IDFG that they were going to take it to court in December if they didn’t close steelhead season by early in the month.

This year has seen a low run to the Snake River Basin and all three states dropped the limit to one already, but this lawsuit is very similar to the one WFC and others pursued against WDFW several years ago when it didn’t have a NMFS-OKed hatchery genetic management plan for the Skykomish and other winter rivers.

HGMPs provide the states with Endangered Species Act coverage, and at the time draft plans for multiple rivers and stocks were piling up on the federal fishery overseers’ collective desk following a raft of listings throughout the region.

In IDFG’s case, its expired all the way back in 2009, per Lewiston Morning Tribune outdoor reporter Eric Barker.

“The state submitted a new monitoring and evaluation plan the same year but officials at Fisheries Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration let it sit idle while working on other pressing issues,” he writes in a story out overnight.

Also at risk are Idaho’s spring, summer and fall Chinook fisheries.

What to do about it is on the agenda of Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission meeting today.

“Department and federal agency review processes to date have found Idaho’s management frameworks for hatchery steelhead and chinook fisheries do not jeopardize wild steelhead populations,” reads a staff briefing out ahead of the confab. “The Department has monitoring and evaluation frameworks in place for hatchery steelhead and chinook fisheries, with annual reporting to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.”

Barker reports NMFS is working on a new draft plan and it’s out for public comment now.

Still, IDFG may have to close steelheading as of Dec. 7 to head off the risk of a lawsuit being filed on the 9th, Barker reports.

Stay tuned.

Idaho Fish And Game Boss To Retire After 8 Years At Helm, 42 In Wildlife Management


Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore on Nov. 6 announced he will retire from the department in Jan. 2019 after a 42-year career in fish and wildlife management. Moore has served as director since 2011, and intends to remain until his replacement has been selected by the Fish and Game Commission and is in place.


“It has been an honor to serve Idahoans, the governor and the Fish and Game commission as director the last eight years, and as a state employee for over 42 years,” Moore said. “Working together, Fish and Game and our wildlife resources are in excellent shape and ready to be handed off to new leadership.”

During his tenure as director, Moore oversaw the federal delisting and state management of wolves, and development of several new species management plans, including for elk and wolverine.  He also  played a key role in development of Governor Otter’s sage grouse plan that helped prevent federal listing, and Moore recently inked an important access agreement with Idaho Department of Lands to ensure continued sportsmen’s access while meeting the fiduciary responsibilities of endowment lands.

Moore’s career in wildlife management start after he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and education in 1973 from Northwest Missouri State University and a master’s degree in zoology from Idaho State University in 1977.

During his career in wildlife management, he also served as director of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, deputy director for Idaho Fish and Game, fisheries bureau chief for Idaho Fish and Game, and numerous other positions for the department’s fisheries and information and education bureaus. Moore also recently ended a one-year term as President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Moore intends to remain in Idaho and spend time with his wife of 47 years, Becky Moore, and continue hunting, fishing and camping with their two adult children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Moore’s position is open for applications, and information about the position can be found here. 

Caribou Reported In Northwest Montana

Just days after British Columbia wildlife managers announced they would round up the last two members of a mountain caribou herd that haunts the international border country, Montana officials are reporting sightings in the northwestern corner of their state.


“The multiple sightings include the potential for a bull and a cow in separate locations,” Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported in a press release out yesterday.

As hunting seasons in the area continued, the agency urged sportsmen to be sure of their targets, as both sexes of adult caribou carry antlers.


The border-crossing South Selkirk herd has declined in recent years, with a particularly sharp drop reported earlier this year.

Where there were a dozen animals in late winter 2017, only a trio — all cows — were spotted during an intensive three-day survey this past March.

Kalispel Tribe biologist Bart George speculated that it was possible other members had been hit by an avalanche or there was a vehicle strike on the main Canadian highway through the mountains, though he didn’t hear of one.

Perhaps some struck out on their own instead.

The plan is to capture the two South Selkirk cows — the third was killed by a cougar this summer — and put with the last three bulls and a cow from the South Purcell herd in a pen 100 miles north of the border.

It’s hoped the animals will breed and a subpopulation could return to the Lower 48, according to a Spokane Spokesman-Review article out over the weekend.

It’s believed that clearcutting in mountain caribou habitat created plentiful browse for moose and other deer species to colonize the heights, and that in turn brought up more cougars, bears and wolves.

Unlike their cousins on the tundra, these caribou apparently didn’t recognize the predators as threats and have declined sharply as a result.

IDFG Looking For Info On Shooting Of Key Sow Grizzly

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is putting out word that it’s looking for information on a grizzly illegally shot in the far northern Panhandle two months ago.

Officials say the sow was killed near Spruce Lake, which is near where the borders of Idaho, Montana and British Columbia come together in northern Boundary County, over Labor Day Weekend.

“Grizzly bears are protected by both state and federal law and the loss of a breeding female is a major setback to the great bear’s recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem,” a statement from the state agency says.

Anyone with information on the case is being asked to call Senior Conservation Officer Brian Johnson at (208) 267-4085.

2018 Idaho Fall Hunting Prospects ‘Good’ For Elk, Whitetails, Better For Muleys


Hunters can look forward to a good fall season in 2018, with similar elk and white-tailed deer populations as last year and likely more mule deer in many areas.

Despite a setback in 2017 following a hard winter that mostly affected mule deer, most of Idaho’s deer and elk herds and harvests have been at or near historic highs in recent years and well above long-term averages. Hunters should see similar numbers this fall.

Let’s look at some figures to back that up.

In 2017, hunters took 22,751 elk, and they have killed more than 20,000 elk annually since 2014. That’s a significant statistic because before 2014, elk harvests were well below 20,000 for seven years. (The 10-year average from 2008-17 is 18,865 elk).

The last extended streak of elk harvests above 20,000 was from 1988 to 1996, which were historic high harvests in Idaho that topped out at 28,000 in 1994.

Whitetails are on a similar trend. Hunters took 26,502 whitetails in 2017, another 26,354 in 2016 following an all-time record of 30,578 whitetails in 2015. The last four years have been the highest consecutive years on record.

But mule deer hunters have not been as fortunate. A combination of a tough winter in 2016-17 and cutbacks in antlerless tags to protect breeding age does dropped the harvest by nearly a third from 37,070 in 2016 to 25,496 last year, but hunters should expect to see a modest increase this fall.

Here’s a more detailed look.

sawtaooth_elk_cc vicschendel

Creative Commons Licence
Vic Schendel


Idaho elk hunters are having some of the best hunting of all time, and there’s no reason the current streak can’t eventually compete with all-time highs based on recent harvests and trends.

Word has gotten out that Idaho’s elk hunting is on an upswing, and part of the attraction is a  combination of readily available tags sold over the counter and healthy elk populations. Elk tag sales have increased for the last five years and exceeded 100,000 annually since 2015. Prior to 2015, tag sales had not topped 100,000 in 16 years. Nonresident tags sold out in 2017, and they are selling faster this year, and will likely sell out again.

The 2017 elk harvest ranked second-highest in the last decade with 1,242 more elk than in 2016. It also ranks sixth all-time, and it’s 30 percent above the 50-year average elk harvest.

Here’s how the 2017 elk harvest breaks down:

  • Total: 22,751
  • Overall success rate: 24.4 percent
  • Bulls: 11,650
  • Cows: 11,101
  • Elk taken during general hunts: 13,277 (18.4 success rate)
  • Elk taken during controlled hunts: 9,473 (44.6 percent success rate)

Elk populations remain strong because they’re less susceptible to winter kill than deer, so they can continue to rebuild herds from year to year. Last winter, statewide calf survival was 66 percent, and the long term average 55 to 65 percent.

While Idaho is reliving some of its glory years for elk hunting, the location of the animals has changed. During record harvests in the 1990s, Central Idaho’s backcountry and wilderness areas were major contributors. They are less so these days, but other areas have picked up the slack.

There’s been a shift in populations from the wilderness and backcountry areas toward the interface between forest lands, agriculture and rural areas.

Harvest results show this. The Panhandle is currently the top elk zone in the state, and the top 10 zones include the Weiser River, Pioneer, Boise River, McCall, Smokey/Bennett and Salmon zones, all of which have major highways running through them.

Those top-producing zones provide accessible opportunities for many hunters, but also have unique challenges because there’s often a mix of public and private lands where the elk roam.

Elk herds are doing so well in some zones, such as the Weiser River and Pioneer zones, that those herds are over objectives and Fish and Game has increased cow hunting opportunities to thin the herds.

For new elk hunters, or experienced hunters looking for a new place to hunt, Idaho’s elk populations are likely to remain healthy in the foreseeable future, so now’s a good time to learn a zone where there are abundant herds.

Idaho offers a variety of over-the-counter tags for elk hunters. Out of 28 elk hunting zones, only two are limited to only controlled hunts, although many zones have limits on the number of tags available.

Hunters should research each zone and may want to look beyond the general, any-weapon seasons to find additional opportunity. Many archery and muzzleloader hunts provide antlerless, or either-sex hunting, and also options for early and late-season hunts.

top ten elk_graph

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Glenna Gomez, Idaho Fish and Game

Creative Commons Licence
Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

Mule deer

Mule deer hunting had also been on an upswing in recent years, but a tough winter across most of southern Idaho in 2016-17 winter dropped the population, which also contributed to a drop of 11,574 in the mule deer harvest between 2016 and 2017.

But a few things should be noted. The drop in doe harvest accounted for 22 percent of the difference between those two years, which was intentional to protect the does that will hopefully continue rebuilding the herds in coming years. Most of those protections remain in place.

Deer tag sales in 2017 fell by 7,323 tags compared with 2016. If those tags had been purchased, and those hunters matched the 2017 success rate for mule deer, it would have added another 2,123 deer to the harvest. That’s assuming they were all mule deer hunters because success rates for whitetails is significantly higher (see below for details about whitetails).

While the mule deer harvest dropped by 31 percent between 2016 and 2017, the success rate between the two years only dropped by 8 percentage points, 37 percent success in 2016 vs. 29 percent in 2017.

Here’s the breakdown of the 2017 mule deer harvest:

  • Total: 25,946
  • Overall success rate: 29 percent
  • Bucks: 20,275
  • Does: 5,221
  • Mule deer taken during general hunts: 18,588 (24.5 percent success rate)
  • Mule deer taken during controlled hunts: 6,909 (56.4 percent success rate)

Mule deer herds had been growing leading up to 2017 with five consecutive years of above-average winter fawn survival until the 2016-17 winter, which had only 30-percent fawn survival (based on radio-collared fawns) and was the second-lowest winter survival since fawn monitoring started in 1998.

Fawn survival vastly improved this year. The 2017-18 winter survival nearly doubled from the previous winter’s 30 percent survival to 57 percent last winter, which is right at the long-term average and should mean more young bucks in the herds during fall.

That’s the age group that saw a sharp drop in the harvest, accounting for 10,171 mule deer in 2016, but only 6,462 in the 2017 harvest.

Mule deer fawn survival rates last winter were also unusually uniform in the seven monitoring areas spread across the state with the lowest coming in at 45 percent and the highest at 66 percent.

Returning to an average fawn survival rate could easily bump the 2018 harvest by several thousand young bucks, however, there will still be fewer 2.5-year old bucks, many of which perished in the 2016-17 winter or were taken by hunters in 2017.

The Southeast Region and the McCall/Weiser areas were hardest hit during the severe 2016-17 winter, while other areas had closer-to-normal fawn survival, but still below average. Areas that weren’t hit as hard are likely to recover more quickly.


Creative Commons Licence
Glenna Gomez, Idaho Fish and Game
whitetail buck

Creative Commons Licence
Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

White-tailed deer

Whitetails have long-been a favorite quarry for hunters in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions, where they account for the vast majority of the harvest. But whitetails have also taken on statewide significance in recent years because their harvest has increased and closely matched mule deer, which has traditionally far outnumbered whitetails in the harvest.

Part of the reason for the shift is stable and abundant whitetail herds, lots of general season hunting opportunities that include long seasons and liberal regulations with either-sex hunting. Those factors also contribute to a higher success rate than mule deer.

Let’s breakdown the 2017 whitetail harvest:

  • Total: 26,502
  • Success rate: 43.9 percent
  • Bucks: 15,895
  • Does: 10,607
  • Bucks five points or larger (on one antler): 3,384
  • General season harvest: 23,312 (42.7 percent success rate)
  • Controlled hunt harvest: 3,189 (54.6 percent success rate)

Unlike mule deer, Fish and Game does not radio collar whitetail fawns and does each winter and monitor their survival, or do other annual population surveys for whitetails. Biologists rely on other data to judge the health of the population, including harvest data.

Harvest has been over 26,000 for the last four years, and the number of five-points in the harvest has been consistent since 2007.

Whitetail hunting is meeting nearly all of the department’s objectives for the number of hunters, hunter days, buck harvest, and percentage of five points. The only exceptions are the Selway/Middle Fork areas are below objectives for hunt numbers and days, and southern Idaho is below objective for five-points, but southern Idaho is not considered a major focus for whitetail hunters.

Idaho has not seen any significant outbreaks of whitetail diseases in recent years, and now outbreaks have been detected this year.

All signs point to another good year for whitetail hunters with lots of opportunity and the chance to get a bigger buck for those who put in the time and effort.

Whitetail hunters should be aware of rule changes in Unit 10A in 2018, which includes a shortened season (Oct. 10 through Nov. 20), and hunters can not use a second deer tag in that unit.


Creative Commons Licence
Glenna Gomez, Idaho Fish and Game


To learn more about harvest statistics, places to hunt, rules and more information, see the Hunt Planner.


‘Disheartening’ — Walleye Caught At Lake Cascade, IDFG Reports


An angler fishing for smallmouth bass and perch on Lake Cascade near Crown Point earlier this week instead reeled in an adult walleye, measuring more than 19 inches in length. Fish and Game regional fisheries manager Dale Allen positively identified the fish on Wednesday, August 22.


The fish was illegally stocked in the reservoir and is the first-ever confirmed report of a walleye in Lake Cascade. Because of the illegal stocking and the threat walleye pose to Cascade’s and other downstream fisheries, Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) is offering a cash reward for information regarding this criminal case. Call the CAP hotline anytime at 1-800-632-5999.

Idaho has just a few walleye fisheries, all established by Fish and Game, and all in isolated reservoirs. Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir in south central Idaho is one example; no outlets from the reservoir exist that might allow walleye to escape to other waters. It is because of their potential threat to existing fisheries that walleye have not been more widely stocked in other Idaho waters.

The Department receives angler requests to establish new walleye populations every year. For the reasons noted, these requests are courteously denied. Unfortunately, some self-serving anglers are not willing to take no for an answer, instead taking matters into their own hands. “This illegal introduction was carefully thought out,” Allen noted. “The closest walleye fishery is more than 200 miles from Cascade. To survive the extended transport time, this fish – and possibly others – would have required clean, cold, aerated water for a number of hours.”

The Department may not know the extent or severity of this illegal stocking for several years. Because of the high stakes, resources will be diverted from other projects to expand fish sampling in Lake Cascade later this year to see if more adult walleye are present and to determine whether reproduction has occurred.

“This incident is particularly disheartening for Cascade,” Allen said. “Fish and Game spent years rebuilding a world-class perch fishery, and the reservoir is also full of big trout and trophy smallmouth bass. Adding another top predator like walleye will almost certainly impact these other sport fish.”

The negative ramifications of this illegal stocking extend well beyond the shores of Lake Cascade. With thousands of acre feet of irrigation water released from the reservoir on an annual basis, it’s no stretch that walleye could move through the Payette River system into Brownlee Reservoir and the Hells Canyon section of the Snake River.

Wild, Scenic And Fishy

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Congressional act that now protects and enhances 3,000 miles of salmon-, steelhead- and trout-bearing rivers in the Northwest.

By Andy Walgamott

While fishing along the banks of Northwest rivers over the years, I’ve always kept an eye out for heart-shaped rocks, but I never found a good one till this past April.


I was on the Sauk, hoping to hook wild winter steelhead after federal overseers finally approved a state season, the first time the Washington Cascades river had been open in spring since 2009. It was a glorious day, and I couldn’t have been happier to be back on the water at that time of year.

John Day River, Central Oregon; 248.6 miles of designated wild, scenic and recreational river. Chinook, steelhead, redband rainbow trout, bull trout, lamprey, smallmouth bass. (BOB WICK, BLM)

As I tried my luck below a riffle, two drift boaters worked a slot above it, and when they pulled their plugs in and headed downstream, I bushwhacked my way upstream to the stretch to hit it with my jigs and spoons.

Lower Klickitat River, Washington; 10.8 miles designated as recreational river. Spring, summer, fall Chinook, coho, summer and winter steelhead, rainbow trout, lamprey. (JASON BROOKS)

That’s when I stumbled onto the big, smooth granite heart. Pegging its base with cobbles, I propped it up on a boulder for a photograph next to one of my favorite rivers.

Grande Ronde River, Oregon; 43.8 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Spring Chinook, coho, summer steelhead, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass. (CASEY CRUM)

THE SAUK’S BRAWNY wild winters eluded me that day, but it was still great to be on several of the 12,754 miles of streams that comprise our National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, created by Congress way back in 1968 and signed into law by President Johnson.

North Umpqua River, Oregon; 33.8 miles designated as recreational river. Spring Chinook, summer steelhead, rainbow trout. (BOB WICK, BLM)

Though coming out of an era of increased environmental concerns – the Clean Air and Wilderness Acts preceded it and it was followed by the Clean Water, Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts – it takes a notably less heavy-handed approach in its implementation.

Bruneau River, Idaho; 39.3 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Redband rainbow trout. (BOB WICK, BLM)

The act aims to “(protect) and (enhance) the values that caused [rivers like the Sauk] to be designated” through the “voluntary stewardship by landowners and river users and through regulation and programs of federal, state, local, or tribal governments,” according to Rivers.gov. “It does not prohibit development or give the federal government control over private property.”

Bruneau River, Idaho; 39.3 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Redband rainbow trout. (RANDY KING)

There are wild, scenic and recreational rivers in 40 states, and some of the fishiest in the Northwest are included.

Lochsa River, Idaho; 90-plus miles designated as recreational river. Spring Chinook, summer steelhead, bull, cutthroat and rainbow trout, mountain whitefish. (PAUL ISHII)

In Oregon, there’s all or portions of the Chetco, Crooked and its North Fork, Deschutes, Elk, Grande Ronde, Illinois, Imnaha, John Day, Klamath, McKenzie, Metolius, North Umpqua, Owyhee, Rogue, Smith, Snake and Wenaha, among many, many more.

Crooked River, Oregon; 17.8 miles designated as recreational river. Redband rainbow trout, mountain whitefish. (BOB WICK, BLM)

In fact, Oregon just might have the highest percentage of rivers of any state: 2 percent, 1,916.7 miles, of the Beaver State’s 110,994 river miles are wild and scenic.

Rogue River, Oregon; 84.5 miles designated as wild, scenic and recreational river. Spring and fall Chinook, coho, summer and winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat and rainbow trout, lamprey. (THOMAS O’KEEFE, RIVERS.GOV)

In Idaho, 891 miles, including much of the Salmon and its Middle Fork, the Middle Fork Clearwater, upper St. Joe and Owyhee, and Bruneau are listed.

Owyhee River, Oregon; 120 miles designated as wild in Oregon (continues in Idaho). Redband rainbow trout. THOMAS O’KEEFE, RIVERS.GOV)

In sharp contrast, only 197 stream miles in Washington have been designated – unusual when you consider that it’s the wettest state in the West.

Skagit River, Washington; 158.5 miles of designated scenic and recreational rivers. Spring, summer and fall Chinook, coho, pink salmon, winter steelhead, bull, rainbow and sea-run cutthroat trout. (CHASE GUNNELL)

Where listed rivers occur throughout most of Oregon, the Evergreen State’s are limited to the Cascades and include the upper and lower ends of the White Salmon, the lower 11 miles of the Klickitat, and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and its tributary, the Pratt.

BUT AT THE northern end of the mountain range is one of Washington’s best watersheds.

I don’t know how many times state district fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull has answered my question about why the Skagit system is so productive for steelhead, Chinook, bull trout and other stocks by pointing to its headwaters.

North Cascades National Park; the Ross Lake National Recreation Area; the Glacier Peak, Henry M. Jackson and Noisy-Diobsud Wildernesses; the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Out of all that protected federal land flows the wild and scenic Sauk, Suiattle, Skagit and Cascade Rivers and Illabot Creek.

It took many more questions of Barkdull to begin to understand that what looks like a mess – all the logjams, braids and big sunbaked cobble bars on the Sauk – is actually a good thing for fish.

They show a river largely unshackled by riprap and dikes, and allowed to meander as it has since for eons, a sign of a healthy river.

That not many people, farms and infrastructure line its banks make that more possible here, but I’d love it if in another 50 years, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act turns 100, more than just one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s streams are part of the system.

Mollala River, Oregon; 23 miles proposed as wild and scenic river. Spring Chinook, coho, winter steelhead, cutthroat and rainbow trout, lamprey. (BOB WICK, BLM)