Tag Archives: idfg

Idaho Hunt Managers Tout 2019 Spring Turkey Prospects

THE FOLLOWING IS AN IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME PRESS RELEASE

The youth turkey season opens Monday, April 8, and the general turkey season and many controlled hunts in the state open the following Monday, April 15. Hunters can see which units have general hunts in Fish and Game’s turkey hunting rules, in addition to details about the seasons.

COLTYN SMITH, THEN AGE 14 FROM HORSESHOE BEND, IDAHO, AND CONNER TOMLINSON, THEN AGE 13 FROM MERIDIAN, IDAHO EACH HARVESTED THEIR TURKEY DURING THE YOUTH HUNT IN APRIL 2016. THEY WERE ESCORTED BY THEIR FATHERS, KIT SMITH AND SCOTT TOMLINSON. THE BOYS HUNTED ON A BEAUTIFUL MORNING, IN THE IDAHO CITY AREA. (ONTARIO KNIFE CO. PHOTO CONTEST)

There are some rule changes for the 2019 season that hunters should be aware of, specifically pertaining to controlled hunts:

  • A general tag or an extra tag may be used with a controlled hunt permit in both the spring and fall seasons
  • Immediately after any wild turkey is killed, the turkey tag and permit, if a controlled hunt, must be validated and securely attached to the wild turkey. To validate the tag and permit, the hunter must cut out and completely remove two triangles on the border of the tag and permit, one for the month and one for the day of the kill
  • The tag and permit must remain attached so long as the turkey is in transit or storage

Hunters will find most general hunting opportunity in the Panhandle, Clearwater, and Southwest and Southeast Regions, while most other areas are limited to controlled hunts.

While much of the state experienced deep snowfall in February, the winter was relatively mild until that point, meaning turkeys were not stressed for a long period of time. Add that to the fact that most of the state’s turkey populations were in good shape heading into the winter, and hunters can expect good to very good turkey hunting in the spring of 2019.

Hunters are warned that many areas experience flooding during late winter and early spring, so they should double check access to their favorite hunting spots. They might also encounter lingering snowdrifts that block them from their hunting spot.

AN I.D.F.G. MAP SHOWS THE PARTS OF IDAHO THAT ARE OPEN TO GENERAL SEASON SPRING TURKEY HUNTING (BLUE) AND AREAS THAT REQUIRE A CONTROLLED TAG. (IDFG)

Fish and Game’s regional staff give an overview of what’s happening with turkey hunting in their regions:

Panhandle Region

Turkey season in the Panhandle is looking quite good despite the snow that accumulated in the lower elevations late winter.

The region currently has near-normal winter snowpack, but the majority of snow fell later in February and March. Turkeys were likely not stressed for a long period because of the mild early winter conditions. Things should begin to melt soon and with the ample late snowfall we should see a very nice spring green-up due to the abundant moisture.

A challenge for turkey hunters this year might be access due to poor road conditions and the potential for flooding, but there should be abundant turkey numbers. Snow may also hang on in some areas of the region potentially affecting access.

During the spring season, hunters may purchase and use up to two turkey tags; only bearded turkeys may be harvested in spring. As always, remember to respect private property, and ask first before you hunt there.

– Micah Ellstrom, Panhandle Region Wildlife Manager

Clearwater Region

Turkeys are present throughout all forested portions of the region with the highest densities found in and adjacent to the Clearwater River drainage up to the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway Rivers, the Snake River drainage up the confluence with the Salmon River, the lower Salmon River drainage up to White Bird, and the Dworshak (Reservoir) area.

Good opportunities for turkey hunting are found on Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area, state and federal property, private property, as well as corporate timber land. The entire region is open to general turkey hunting April 8-14 (youth only) and April 15 – May 25 for the general spring season.

Production the past five years has been at or above the long-term average. Relatively mild conditions during the bulk of the past two winters should result in good overwinter survival. Consequently, turkey numbers this hunting season should be comparable to those observed in recent years.

Late winter snows could potentially preclude access to some higher elevation areas depending on weather conditions and snowmelt between now and the opener. The Hunt Planner is a good tool for showing different federal land ownership. For information on corporate timberland, visit websites for the Potlatch Timber Corporation and the Bennett Lumber Company.

– Dave Koehler, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Upper Snake Region

The Upper Snake Region generally has small populations mainly along the Henry’s Fork and South Fork of the Snake River.

With the late arrival of winter this year and lower than normal temperatures in February and March, we would anticipate some winter mortalities within the region.  With above normal snowpack in higher elevations in many parts of the region, expect to find turkeys at lower elevations later into the season.

Anticipate stable to slightly declining turkey populations in the region for spring hunting.

– Curtis Hendricks, Upper Snake Region Wildlife Manager

Southeast Region

Turkeys fared extremely well last spring/summer with high production and survival rates resulting in flock increases across the region.

Winter conditions were above average, however, turkey numbers were extremely high this past year, and despite some winter mortality, there should still be robust turkey populations for hunters to enjoy.

During the early period of the spring season, hunters might find turkey distributions to be slightly different due to lingering snow at higher elevations.

– Zach Lockyer, Regional Wildlife Manager

Southwest Region

The turkey outlook in the Nampa subregion of the Southwest Region is good. Winter conditions have been mild in the valley and we expect high overwinter survival in GMU’s 38 and 39.

Additionally, 100 turkeys were trapped on private land near Parma (GMU 38) and relocated to public land on the South Fork Boise River below Anderson Ranch Dam (GMU 39).

Turkeys have been faring well in the Treasure Valley for several years and numbers are up. Spring turkey hunting throughout the area should be good this spring.

– Rick Ward, Regional Wildlife Manager, Nampa Subregion

Turkey numbers are increasing throughout occupied parts of the Southwest Region.  Although many areas saw deep snow this winter, it came late and stayed for a relatively short time, so did not adversely affect turkey populations in most places.

Units 22, 31, 32A and 23 all have general spring turkey hunts, as does a portion of Unit 32. In areas around Cecil D. Andrus WMA, Cambridge, Weiser and Midvale, most turkeys will be at low elevations during the early part of the spring season.

Motorized travel is restricted on Andrus WMA until May 1, but walk-in hunting is welcome.  In addition, there is turkey hunting available on Access Yes properties near Cambridge, Indian Valley, and New Meadows.

– Regan Berkley, Regional Wildlife Manager, McCall Subregion

Salmon Region

The region has low turkey densities, about 400 in Custer County and about 125 to 225 in Lemhi County. There are limited controlled hunts for these birds.

The region likely had some late winter mortality but hunting success rates should remain good. Access will not be a problem due to snow.

– Greg Painter, Salmon Region Wildlife Manager

Magic Valley Region

The region has a limited number of turkeys in Unit 54, with most residing on the west side of the unit. Turkeys are limited to controlled hunts only in the region, and normal survival is anticipated after the winter.

– Mark Fleming, Regional Wildlife Habitat Manager

Solar-powered Mule Deer Bucks Wandering Around Idaho (Sort Of)

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Idaho Fish and Game is using “green” power, but not where you might expect it. Mule deer bucks currently roaming the backcountry are sporting solar-powered ear tags that allow biologists to track their movements without worrying about draining a battery in a telemetry collar.

A CLOSE-UP OF THE SOLAR-POWERED EAR TAG PLACED ON AN IDAHO MULE DEER BUCK THIS WINTER. (IDFG)

Advanced technology continues to open new doors for wildlife monitoring, and Fish and Game managers and researchers continue to be at the forefront of using that new technology in the field. During winter, they deployed 20 solar-powered, GPS ear tags to bucks in Units 22, 32, and 39.

During the hunting season, the ear tags will record and save locations of tagged bucks every 30 minutes, and that information will be transmitted remotely via existing cellular networks to a Fish and Game database when cell service is available. If cell service isn’t available during one or more of those 30 minute intervals, the location information will be stored locally on a memory card and transmitted the next time the device has service.

Researchers can access the database from their computers or smartphones to monitor the locations, movements and behavior of the tagged animals.

Biologists hope the information from this study will allow them to determine how hunting seasons affect the movement of mule deer bucks, and how wildlife managers influence mortality with the hunting season, said Mark Hurley, Fish and Game’s wildlife research manager.

“From a management perspective, we are trying to figure out how we can we optimize hunting without over-harvesting our bucks,” Hurley said.

Fish and Game biologists have for years used GPS collars to monitor mule deer fawns and does. Biologists capture and collar fawns and adult does annually each winter. For the female fawns, the collars are designed to stay on the animal into adulthood. They are cushioned with foam that is compressed and eventually degrades. The collars remain tight — but not too tight — as the female fawns grow.

For male fawns, however, the collars are stitched together with surgical tubing and designed to fall off when the animal is about a year old. There is a biological reason for that: Throughout a year, the circumference of an adult buck’s neck can vary significantly.

During the rut, the circumference can increase up to 50 percent before shrinking back to normal, which makes keeping collars on bucks difficult. While biologists have used telemetry collars on adult bucks in past studies, the durations of those studies have been short.

The new ear tags solve the problem of swelling necks in adult bucks, and because the tags are solar charged, they also enable biologists to affix a GPS device to bucks when they are fawns and continue to monitor them throughout their lives.

A BIOLOGIST PREPARES TO ATTACH A SOLAR-POWERED EAR TAG ON A BUCK. (IDFG)

There are tradeoffs with the ear tags. Out of necessity, the ear tags are light and compact — meaning there’s no room for the kind of big battery that powers Fish and Game’s telemetry collars. Instead, the tags have a much smaller, solar-charged battery. The smaller battery doesn’t have enough “oomph” to remotely transmit data back to researchers via satellite like the collars do, which is why they rely on a cellular network to do so.

Cell service is hard to come by in much of the country these deer are roaming. The tags compensate for that by storing data locally, and transmitting it to researchers if and when they eventually find service. Like the collars, the tags will send out a “mortality signal” when it hasn’t moved for an extended period of time. If the animal dies in an area without cell service, however, there could be challenges locating it.

For that reason, Hurley said researchers will rely on hunters to return some of the ear tags after they’ve harvested bucks fitted with them, so researchers can pull the location data from those devices.

No matter the type of device, tracking and transmitting location data comes at a cost: The more often GPS devices log and send locations to biologists, the quicker the battery is depleted. When the big batteries on collars run out of juice, that’s it — at least until biologists can recover the collar, replace the power supply and redeploy it.

With an ear tag, a miniature solar panel continually recharges its smaller battery — giving it a shelf life of four to five years, researchers estimate, even when it’s logging locations more often than a GPS collar.

News From Idaho: Most Fawns, Calves Surviving Winter; Springer Season Opens 4-27

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Most radio-collared fawns and elk calves survived unusually snowy February

78 percent of fawns and 94 percent of calves were still alive through February, but they’re not safe yet

Despite February storms that battered much of Idaho and pushed snowpack and precipitation above average in most areas, radio-collared young fawns and elk calves were faring relatively well across the state through the end of February.

A RADIO-COLLARED MULE DEER RUNS THROUGH SAGEBRUSH IN SOUTHWEST IDAHO. (IDFG)

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have been monitoring 207 mule deer fawns and 201 elk calves captured earlier in the winter and fitted with telemetry collars.

Through the end of February, 78 percent of the collared fawns and 94 percent of the calves were still alive. That compares with 88 percent of the fawns and 97 percent of the calves surviving through February in 2017-18, and 55 and 80 percent in 2016-17.

While snowpacks and precipitation totals are above average for most of the state, the late arrival of winter weather in 2019 has made for an easier winter for big game than in 2016-17, according to Daryl Meints, State Deer and Elk manager for Fish and Game.

In 2016-17, a prolonged, severe winter resulted in some of the lowest survival rates recorded for mule deer fawns and elk calves. Prior to what was a record-setting February for snowfall for many areas in the state, 2018-19 winter had been a mild-to-average snowfall and temperatures for most of Idaho.

While the weather may be trending warmer so far in March this year, the young animals aren’t “out of the woods” yet. In fact, the March and April are often when fawn and calf mortality is the highest because the young animals’ fat reserves are rapidly depleting and their body’s need time to convert digesting fresh forage.

“April is crucial,” Meints said. “That’s the make-or-break month, when their gas tank is hitting empty. What is going to matter now is how soon winter ends, or how soon spring shows up.”

If the warm weather continues through the end of April, Meints expects fawn survival will fall somewhere in the average range, while calf survival will be above average.

“But if for some reason we get a weather system that is cloudy, cold, and wet, and we don’t get that spring green up on south-facing slopes, we could be in for some additional mortality,” Meints said.

People getting outdoors to recreate in the spring also need to be conscious and considerate of wildlife, particularly big game that remains on low-elevation winter ranges. Despite warmer temperatures and spring green up, deer, elk and pronghorn antelope still need to be left undisturbed to give young animals a better chance of surviving their critical first winter.

…………………

F&G Commission sets spring Chinook to open April 27

Limited fishing days on Clearwater, Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers, and the Upper Snake closed

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved spring Chinook fishing on the Clearwater, Salmon and Little Salmon rivers during their meeting on Wednesday, March 13 in Boise.

Fishing will open on April 27, with a two-day-a-week season on the Clearwater River and a four-day-a-week season on the Salmon and Little Salmon rivers. The season will run until sport anglers’ shares of the harvest are met (which varies by river) or Aug. 11 — whichever comes sooner.

Due to very low projected returns the Upper Snake River in Hells Canyon, fisheries managers did not propose to open a spring Chinook season for the fishery this year.

Chinook have just started entering the Columbia River and a small portion of them are working their way through Columbia/Snake river systems. Here’s current salmon counts at the dams.

Fisheries managers are forecasting a run of about 32,000 spring Chinook through Lower Granite Dam, which is about 25 miles downstream from Lewiston and the last of the eight dams that returning salmon cross on their way back to Idaho. The forecast is similar to last year’s actual return of 39,000, and below the 10-year average return of 75,000.

Included in the forecast are about 26,000 hatchery Chinook and 6,000 wild Chinook. The 2018 returns were 32,000 and 7,000, respectively, and the 10-year averages are 58,000 and 17,000. Forecasts are a starting point for managing Chinook returns, and they will be adjusted as fish migrate through the river systems.

Because the forecasted Chinook return for the Salmon River basin is about 8,700 fish, and the sport anglers’ share would be 1,430 fish this year. Fishing will be open Thursday through Sunday, with a limit of four total fish, only two of which may be adults.

For the Clearwater River basin, the projected return is about 9,400 adult fish, and the sport anglers’ harvest share would be 470. Fishing will be open on Saturday and Sunday, with a limit of four total fish, only one of which may be an adult.

Just 123 adult fish are projected to return the Upper Snake River in Hells Canyon, where fisheries managers do not expect a sport angler harvest share at all.

“Due to extremely high flows at Hells Canyon in 2017, we had high total dissolved gasses, which are potentially lethal to fish,” aid Jim Fredericks, Fish and Game’s Fisheries Bureau Chief. “In 2017, we chose to release the fish allocated for Hells Canyon at Rapid River instead, to ensure that they survived. For that reason, we have hardly any two-year-old fish coming back to Hells Canyon this year.”

Only hatchery Chinook with a clipped adipose fin may be kept by anglers, and all others must be released unharmed. Chinook anglers are restricted to barbless hooks.

Anglers should refer to the 2019 spring Chinook salmon seasons and rules brochure for other rules and special restrictions, which will be available online in early April, and in paper form prior to the spring Chinook season at Fish and Game offices and license vendors.

The Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to decide on summer Chinook salmon fisheries on the Lochsa River, South Fork Salmon River and upper Salmon River at its May meeting. Fish return to those areas later than to the Clearwater River and Rapid River hatcheries, allowing fishery managers more time to develop season proposals.

Waters open to fishing:

Clearwater River drainage — open Saturday and Sunday

  • Mainstream Clearwater River: Camas Prairie Bridge to Highway 12 Bridge; Pink House Boat Ramp to Greer Bridge
  • North Fork: Open, no boats
  • Middle Fork: Open
  • South Fork: Harpster Grade to Mount Idaho Grade Bridge.

Salmon River drainage — open Thursday through Sunday

  • Rice Creek Bridge to Vinegar Creek Boat Ramp
  • Entirety of Little Salmon River

Snake River — closed

Here’s What NOAA Says About Why It Approved IDFG Steelhead Fishery

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RLEASE FROM THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINSTRATION’S FISHERIES SERVICE

NOAA Fisheries has determined that Idaho’s Fishery Management and Evaluation Plan (FMEP) for their recreational steelhead fishery provides necessary protections for salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  NOAA fisheries has approved Idaho’s plan under section 4(d) Rule.

AN ANGLER ADMIRES A WILD STEELHEAD CAUGHT DURING A DERBY HELD OUT OF LEWISTON, IDAHO, SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (BRIAN LULL)

Under section 4(d), NOAA Fisheries can specify how an activity can be exempt from additional ESA regulations. This applies particularly to “take,” which can include any act that kills or injures fish, and may include habitat modification. The ESA prohibits any take of species listed as endangered, but some take of threatened species that does not interfere with survival and recovery may be allowed.

“Idaho has developed a plan that provides continuing recreational fishing opportunities while ensuring that ESA-listed salmon and steelhead have the protection they need to recover,” said Allyson Purcell, Branch Chief in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region.

Idaho’s plan came together through collaboration with fishery managers across the Snake River Basin and includes a new basin-wide framework designed to limit total impacts on steelhead from all fisheries in the Snake River Basin.  Under Idaho’s plan, fishermen will continue to be required to release any wild steelhead they encounter.

The plan will also limit impacts of Idaho’s steelhead fishery on other ESA-listed species, such as Snake River sockeye and Snake River fall Chinook salmon. Furthermore, Idaho will be implementing new low-abundance thresholds that will trigger implementation of additional conservation measures when natural-origin steelhead abundance is projected to fall below threshold levels.

“The framework is responsive to changing conditions, and it will provide additional protections when the abundance of wild steelhead falls below critical abundance levels,” Purcell said. “We received over 1000 letters from fishing groups, environmental groups, government officials, and interested citizens during our public comment period on Idaho’s proposed plan.  This level of involvement demonstrates how important these fish are to the Pacific Northwest communities.”

More information:

Idaho Steelheading To Stay Open As Fish And Game Receives NOAA Permit

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Idaho Fish and Game on March 15 received federal reauthorization for its steelhead fishing season, so fishing will continue uninterrupted, and the two areas currently closed will reopen immediately.

STEELHEADERS CAN CONTINUE  ANGLING THE NORTH FORK CLEARWATER, WHERE KELLY COLLITON CAUGHT THIS BIG B-RUN, AND OTHER IDAHO RIVERS AS STATE MANAGERS RECEIVED A NEW FEDERAL PERMIT JUST IN TIME TO KEEP FISHERIES OPEN THROUGH THE END OF APRIL. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Steelhead fishing resumes in the following locations:

  • The Main Salmon River between Warren Creek and the Copper Mine Boat Ramp.
  • South Fork of Clearwater River upstream of the Mount Idaho Grade Bridge.

Per Fish and Game director’s order, bag limits for steelhead anglers will remain as follows:

  • One steelhead daily in the Mainstem Clearwater, North Fork Clearwater, Middle Fork Clearwater, Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers, and the Snake River from the Washington state line upstream to the Dug Bar Boat Ramp.
  • Two steelhead daily in the South Fork Clearwater River and Snake River from the Dug Bar Boat Ramp to Hells Canyon Dam.

The federal agency that authorizes Idaho’s steelhead fishing, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had up until the fall of 2018 allowed Fish and Game to hold fishing seasons for nearly a decade while a permit application was pending.

However, several groups threatened to sue NOAA over the lack of a permit, which prompted to the Fish and Game Commission to order a suspension of the season in December. But Fish and Game officials and the groups reached a settlement that allowed most steelhead fishing to continue while NOAA officials processed the permit.

“During this difficult period, we greatly appreciate the patience of anglers, outfitters and guides, and other businesses and communities that rely on steelhead fishing,” said Fish and Game’s Fisheries Bureau Chief Jim Fredericks. “While it was NOAA’s inaction that created this situation, we appreciate NOAA staff working diligently to expedite this permit in a valid and legally defensible way and completing it when promised, despite a federal government shutdown that lasted more than a month.”

Elk Hoof Disease Confirmed In Washington’s Southeast Corner

Hoof disease in elk has turned up in Washington’s Blues, echoing confirmed cases on the Oregon side of the range and coming after Idaho earlier this month said an infected wapiti was harvested last fall across the Snake River from the mountains.

AN ELK’S HOOF AFFECTED BY THE CONDITION. (WDFW)

WDFW’s Kyle Garrison says hooves submitted by a muzzleloader hunter who killed the animal southeast of Walla Walla in mid-January came back late last week from a Washington State University lab as positive for treponeme-associated hoof disease.

The cow elk was taken on a permit in the Pikes Peak area of Game Management Unit 154.

Garrison says the initial belief is that there may not be more affected elk there, based on the high public visibility of the herd, but his agency plans to ramp up monitoring, including spending more time looking for limpers during upcoming aerial surveys.

The news was first reported by the Walla Walla Union Bulletin last night.

The disease makes it more difficult for elk to get around and there is no treatment for it, according to WDFW.


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

Last year, after hoof disease was found in elk east of Washington’s Cascade Crest for the first time, the agency began euthanizing members of a Trout Lake herd, removing 12 through the end of 2018 through a combination of state staff and landowner efforts and special damage hunt permits.

Garrison says that he has two more sets of hooves from elk taken by master hunters to submit to WSU for testing.

“We’re still actively monitoring and actively removing limpers when we can” in the Trout Lake valley, he says.

Further west WDFW is conducting a four-year study of survival rates of infected cow elk, as well as the disease’s affects on fecundity and herd movement. Some 76 animals are part of the study.

To try and stop or slow the spread of hoof disease, WDFW is also proposing expanding the area where hooves must be left in the field to all of Western Washington.

That follows on recent confirmed cases just south of Olympic National Park and past years’ requirements that initially applied to just several units in the Cowlitz River basin, then all of Southwest Washington and units stretching up the I-5 corridor to Canada.

Public comment will be taken on the proposal at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting this Friday in Spokane.

Garrison also encouraged members of the public to share their sightings of limping elk, both recent ones and any they may have seen in the past.

With this latest confirmation, hoof disease isn’t just on the radar in Eastern Washington, but a growing threat there.

50 Walleye Worth $1,000 Each Waiting To Be Caught In IDFG Lake Pend Oreille Study

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

If the great taste of a walleye fillet isn’t enough, anglers will now have added incentive to catch and keep walleye in Lake Pend Oreille and connected Idaho waters. Starting March 1, an experimental program launched by Idaho Fish and Game and Avista will offer a chance at cash rewards for anglers harvesting walleye.

IDAHO FISHERY MANAGERS SAY NONNATIVE INVASIVE WALLEYE WILL BE SWIMMING IN LAKE PEND OREILLE “FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE” BUT THEY ARE ALSO TESTING WHETHER ANGLERS CAN HELP KEEP THEIRS POPULATIONS IN CHECK THROUGH A STUDY THAT INVOLVES SPECIALLY TAGGED FISH WORTH $1,000. (MATT CORSI, IDFG)

Fifty walleye in Lake Pend Oreille, the Clark Fork River and the Pend Oreille River have been injected in the snout with a tiny, internal tag. These tags are invisible to anglers, but turning in heads from legally caught walleye offers anglers a chance at two types of cash rewards. Anglers will receive $1,000 for a head that is turned in from a tagged walleye. Additionally, every walleye head turned in enters anglers in the monthly drawing for ten cash prizes of $100 each.

There is no bag limit on walleye in the Pend Oreille system. For rules and entry details visit Fish and Game’s Lake Pend Oreille Angler Incentive Program website or any of the following fish head freezer locations:

McDonald’s Hudson Bay Resort, 17813 E Hudson Bay Rd, Bayview
Fish & Game Field Office, 16805 Limekiln Rd, Bayview
Garfield Bay Boat Launch, 61 W Garfield Bay Rd, Sagle
Glengary Boat Launch, Marina Rd, Sagle
Peck Landscape Supplies & Farm Store, 468215 Hwy 95, Sagle
North 40, 477181 N Hwy 95, Ponderay
Arnie’s Conoco, 32131 Hwy 200, Kootenai
Holiday Shores Resort and Cafe, 46624 Hwy 200, Hope
Hope Marine, 47392 Hwy 200, Hope
Bonner Park West, 500 Railroad Ave, Priest River
Fish & Game Regional Office, 2885 W Kathleen Ave, Coeur d’Alene (weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

Experimental approach focuses on fishing power

Walleye were essentially non-existent in Lake Pend Oreille ten years ago, but numbers have been rapidly increasing since 2014. The population likely originated from an illegal introduction of walleye into Noxon Reservoir in the early 1990’s. These fish moved downstream into Idaho via the Clark Fork River. Biologists now fear walleye may cause a decline in kokanee and other high-demand sportfish, such as rainbow trout, native bull trout and cutthroat trout, and bass.

Using information provided by this experimental program, biologists will evaluate how effective anglers can be at keeping walleye populations in check. The lottery will be paired with an experimental gill netting program to compare effectiveness of both approaches. Walleye harvested from gill nets will be donated to area food banks.

Producing over 35,000 eggs per pound of body weight, walleye can quickly reproduce and become a problem if not addressed early. They are also adapted to live in a variety of both lake and stream environments, making them very effective invaders.

Walleye have dramatically changed fish communities in the western United States. Canyon Ferry Reservoir in Montana provides a cautionary look at how walleye can eat themselves out of house and home. Illegally introduced in the 1980’s, walleye depleted the prey base in the reservoir, collapsing perch, rainbow trout, and white sucker populations over the next decade. Following the loss of prey, walleye condition and size dropped. Ultimately, angler satisfaction in the entire fishery declined due to walleye.

Lake Pend Oreille has long been known for its trophy rainbow trout and bull trout, having produced world records for both species. Along with being a popular sportfish, kokanee are the primary prey base for these trophy fisheries and therefore considered the backbone of the fishery. As history shows, a downturn in the kokanee population has reverberating effects across the Lake Pend Oreille food web.

Borrowing a page from lake trout management

Just over a decade ago, lake trout threatened to collapse the kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille. Similar to walleye, lake trout are an introduced, top-level predator in the lake ecosystem. Since 2006, Fish and Game staff and the angling community, with support from Avista and Bonneville Power Administration, have worked to manage and suppress lake trout. Angler rewards and commercial netting were the tools used to reduce lake trout abundance.

The program is a success, as kokanee are now highly abundant and the trophy rainbow trout fishery is outstanding. A similar management approach may work to limit walleye population growth but biologists want to test this strategy before committing long-term.

LAKE PEND OREILLE’S KOKANEE POPULATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY PROTECTED FROM INTRODUCED LAKE TROUT, BUT NOW FACE A THREAT FROM WALLEYE. (MATT CORSI, IDFG)

Despite being a popular sportfish that benefit fisheries elsewhere, walleye pose a significant risk to sustaining the existing Lake Pend Oreille fishery. Trout and kokanee are particularly vulnerable prey because these species have no spiny fins for protection. Based on stomach content analysis, walleye commonly feed on kokanee in the deeper parts of the lake and yellow perch in the shallower areas.

Given what is known about walleye, it is unlikely the species could be eliminated from Lake Pend Oreille entirely. Fish and Game researchers want to find effective ways to manage this new walleye population at a low enough density that does not jeopardize the existing fishery.

Walleye will be swimming in the lake into the foreseeable future. Fortunately, walleye fishing is fun and they make excellent table fare. The walleye lottery is aimed at adding to that experience with cash rewards while directly involving anglers in Lake Pend Oreille’s fishery management.

If you have questions please call the Panhandle Regional Office at (208)769-1414.

IDFG Reports On 2018 Deer, Elk Harvests

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Hunters took more mule deer and fewer white-tailed deer in 2018 compared to 2017, while the elk harvest was similar between the two years — dropping by less than 2 percent from 2017 to 2018.

The 2018 elk harvest was about 15.4 percent above the 10-year average, and the overall deer harvest was less than 1 percent below the 10-year average. Although white-tailed deer harvest dipped in 2018 compared to 2017, gains in the mule deer harvest – largely from spike and two-point bucks – brought the overall deer harvest for 2018 above that of 2017 .

(IDFG)

ELK
At a glance
Total elk harvest: 22,325
Overall hunter success rate: 23.5 percent
Antlered: 11,326
Antlerless: 10,999
Taken during general hunts: 13,473 (18.2 percent success rate)
Taken during controlled hunts: 8,853 (42 percent success rate)

How it stacks up

The past few years have been a great time to be an elk hunter in Idaho; in fact, the current stretch is among the best in the state’s history. In 2018, elk harvest exceeded 20,000 for the fifth straight year. Going back to 1935, only a nine-year run that started in 1988 – the first year in that hunters harvested more than 20,000 elk in the state – and ran through the mid-1990’s ranks higher.

Harvest in 2018 was similar to 2017, down by just 426 total elk, or about 2 percent, from 2017. The antlered harvest dropped 325 animals, and the antlerless harvest fell by 101 animals. While lower than the prior year, 2018’s elk harvest was still the third-highest in the last decade, and the tenth-highest all time.

(IDFG)

MULE DEER
At a glance
Total mule deer: 26,977
Overall hunter success rate: 31.1 percent
Antlered: 21,471
Antlerless: 5,506
Taken during general hunts: 20,060 (27.1 percent success rate)
Taken during controlled hunts: 6,917 (55.3 percent success rate)

How it stacks up

Hunters harvested 1,480 more mule deer in 2018 than in 2017, an increase of 5.8 percent. The bump in harvest was a step in the right direction after a 31 percent drop in total harvest from 2016 to 2017. The statewide mule deer harvest in 2018 was about 3.5 percent lower than the 10-year average harvest of 27,969 animals.


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

Leading up to the 2017 hunting season, Idaho’s mule deer population had been on an upswing, but a tough winter across most of Southern Idaho in 2016-17 resulted in the second-lowest statewide fawn survival rate on record, meaning fewer animals were recruited into the herds for the 2017 hunting seasons.

Those male fawns would have been two-points, or spikes, in the fall of 2017 had they survived, which typically account for a large portion of the mule deer buck harvest. In response to that harsh winter, Fish and Game wildlife managers cut back on antlerless opportunities to protect breeding-age does and help prime the population for a rebound.

Those circumstances resulted in 2,517 fewer antlerless mule deer and 3,709 fewer two points or spikes being harvested in 2017 than 2016. The drop in doe and young buck harvest (spikes and two-points) accounted for more than half of the overall drop in the mule deer harvest in 2017.

There wasn’t much of an increase in antlerless harvest in 2018, as most of the protections for breeding-age does remained in place, but there was a bump in the number of young bucks harvested in 2018 compared to 2017 – a result of an average winter across most of the state and a return to average fawn survival rates.

This age group of bucks accounted for the majority of the uptick in mule deer harvest numbers from the 2017 to the 2018 season. Hunters took 8,975 bucks with two points or less in 2018, up from 6,562 in 2017 – an increase of 2,413 animals, or 38 percent.

(IDFG)

WHITE-TAILED DEER
At a glance
Total white-tailed deer: 25,134
Overall hunter success rate: 41.5 percent
Antlered: 15,163
Antlerless: 9,969
Taken during general hunts: 21,975 (40.2 percent success rate)
Taken during controlled hunts: 3,158 (53.8 percent success rate)

How it stacks up

Statewide, hunters took 1,368 fewer white-tailed deer in 2018 than they did in 2017, a decrease of about 5.2 percent. Despite the dip, white-tailed deer harvest in 2018 remained above the 10-year average of 24,191 animals harvested. It was the fifth-straight year that harvest exceeded 25,000 white-tailed deer. The all-time harvest record of 30,578 was set in 2015, and the 2018 harvest ranks fifth all time.

The vast majority of the white-tailed deer harvest occurs in the Northern Idaho. Hunters in the Panhandle region harvested 10,378 animals in 2018, down about 6.4 percent from the 11,084 white-tailed deer harvested in 2017. In the Clearwater region, hunters harvested 12,464 white-tailed deer in 2018, down about 6 percent from the 13,259 animals harvested in 2017.

“We can have plus or minus 15 to 20 percent in the harvest annually, due to the weather,” said Clay Hickey, Fish and Game’s Regional Wildlife Manager in the Clearwater Region. “Last fall was hot and dry, and we would have expected harvest to be down some without a change in hunter numbers.”

The overall decrease in white-tailed deer harvest was split fairly equally between antlered and antlerless animals: Antlered harvest in 2018 dropped 732 compared with 2017, while antlerless harvest fell by 638. Statewide, the success rate, hunter days, and percentage of five-points remained consistent with 2017.

Shutdown Affecting Steelhead Season Planning, Sea Lion Management — Even A Clam Dig

Add Northwest steelheading, sea lion management and a three-day razor clam dig at a national park to the list of things being impacted by the partial US government shutdown, now in its record 26th day.

A NOAA technical consultation on Washington’s Skagit-Sauk spring season and the federal agency’s work approving Idaho’s fisheries permit are on pause, while any new pinnipeds showing up at Willamette Falls get a free pass to chow down, and the Jan. 19-21 Kalaloch Beach clam opener has been rescinded.

Let’s break things down by state.

OREGON

While ODFW can still remove previously identified California sea lions that gather at the falls and in the lower Clackamas to eat increasingly imperiled wild steelhead, new ones must first be reported to a federal administrator who has been furloughed since before Christmas due to the shutdown, according to a Courthouse News Service story.

A CALIFORNIA SEA LION THROWS A SALMONID IN SPRING 2016 AT WILLAMETTE FALLS. (ODFW)

And as native returns begin to build, a newly arrived CSL there won’t face the consequences — at least until the shutdown over the border wall is ended.

“If it carries on it will be a bigger impact on the spring Chinook run,” ODFW’s Shaun Clements told Courthouse News. “Relative to the winter steelhead, they’re in a much better place, but extinction risk for spring Chinook is still pretty high.”

So far four CSLs have been taken out since the state agency got the go-ahead in November to remove up to 93 a year. ODFW had anticipated killing 40 in the first four months of 2019.

IDAHO

Over in Idaho, what seemed like plenty of time early last month for NOAA to (finally) review and approve the Gem State’s steelhead fishing plan before mid-March is shrinking.

STEELHEAD ANGLERS FISH IDAHO’S CLEARWATER RIVER AT LEWISTON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“There is about a month of cushion between the expiration of the agreement and when we first expected the permit (to be completed),” IDFG’s Ed Schriever told Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune. “We know the longer (the shutdown) goes on, the narrower the window becomes on the cushion that existed prior to the shutdown. We can only hope resolution comes quickly and those folks get back to work on our permit.”

The work was made necessary by environmental groups’ lawsuit threat that resulted in an agreement between the state, a community-angler group and the litigants that provided cover to continue fishing season through either when NOAA finished processing the plan or March 15.

Schriever told Barker that if the shutdown continues, he would probably ask the parties to the agreement for an extension.

WASHINGTON

And in Washington, there’s now an agonizing amount of uncertainty for what seemed like would be a slam-dunk steelhead fishery.

DRIFT BOAT ANGLERS MAKE THEIR WAY DOWN THE SAUK RIVER DURING APRIL 2018’S FIRST-IN-NINE-SPRINGS FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Last month, WDFW along with tribal comanagers sent a plan for a three-month-long catch-and-release season for wild winter-runs on the North Sound’s Skagit and Sauk Rivers under the same constraints as last April’s NOAA-approved 12-day fishery.

Before the shutdown, NOAA had some “relatively minor matters” to clear up, so a meeting was scheduled for last week “to resolve the technical questions,” according to a Doug Huddle column for our February issue.

“We have approval to conduct the fishery. We have a set of conditions we have to fulfill as part of that approval. We think we have provided everything asked,” said district biologist Brett Barkdull.

But with NOAA out of the office it will come down to an upcoming policy call “one way or the other” by higher-ups at WDFW based on a risk assessment.

Out on Washington’s outer coast, WDFW is scrubbing three days of razor clam digging at Kalaloch Beach over the Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend.

With federal techs and park rangers furloughed, WDFW had planned on having its staff on the beach to monitor clammers as well as station game wardens on Highway 101, where they do have enforcement authority, if need be.

“We are closing Kalaloch beach to razor clam digging in response to a request by Olympic National Park,” said Dan Ayres, agency coastal shellfish manager, in a press release. “Olympic National Park staff are not available to help ensure a safe and orderly opening in the area.”

Digs will go on as planned this Thursday-Monday during the various openers at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis Beaches.

Ayres said that WFDW and the park will consider other openers at Kalaloch to make up for the lost harvest opportunity.

Elsewhere, while Pacific Fishery Management Council staffers are in their offices, that’s not the case for federal participants in the 2019 North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process.

US contributions to an international report on commercial West Coast hake fishing as well as other work handled by researchers at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle is on hold.

A meeting on highly migratory species and another with members of a statistical review committee have been cancelled, though at the moment a third reviewing 2018 salmon fisheries and which is part of the annual North of Falcon season-setting process is still a go.

And NOAA survey ships have reportedly also been tied up to the dock.

Idaho Hunter Who Saved Another Awarded IDFG’s ‘Doing Good’ Coin

THE FOLLOWING IS A IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME STORY BY BRADLEY LOWE

Anglers, hunters, and trappers throughout Idaho do some pretty remarkable things in a given year. Most of those acts, unfortunately, go unnoticed. What does get noticed are the unethical behaviors like the indignant display of harvested animals, waste of game meat, abuse of motorized vehicles, shot up signs, and other unsportsmanlike conduct that casts a dark shadow on the vast majority of well-behaved sportsmen and women.

IDAHO UPLAND BIRD HUNTER MIKE STEWART (RIGHT) ACCEPTS THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME’S “CAUGHT IN THE ACT OF DOING GOOD” COIN FROM STATE WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST BRANDON FLACK, THE FIRST AWARDED THROUGH THE PROGRAM IN IDFG’S SOUTHWEST REGION. STEWART LIKELY SAVED THE LIFE OF A SHIVERING HUNTER DESPERATE TO FIND HIS DOG AFTER IT JUMPED INTO AN ICED-OVER SLOUGH IN SOUTHWEST IDAHO. (IDFG)

In an effort to shine a brighter light on the good deeds, Idaho Fish and Game’s Southwest Region is expanding on a recognition program first started in the Magic Valley in 2012, Caught in the Act of Doing Good.

The program aims to reward sportsmen and women whose actions promote good sportsmanship and reflect behavior or ethics that exemplify the model sportsman with a minted metal coin. The coin is intended to be an immediate and tangible token of appreciation that holds some significance to the recipient, providing a lasting memento for a selfless act that can be shared for many years.

(IDFG)

The coin’s image is based on a pen and ink drawing Cowboy and Baby Bird, which was drawn by former Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer Bill Pogue in 1975. This image captures, not only the spirit of the program, but the dedication of professionals in the field of protecting Idaho’s wildlife and fisheries resources.

The first recipient of a coin in the Southwest Region is Mike Stewart, of Bruneau, who came to the aid of a 72-year-old hunter on Dec. 19. Stewart, having heard a great deal of commotion coming from the hunter, came to investigate. The hunter found himself in a terrible circumstance in which his beloved dog had jumped into a slough at the C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Area to retrieve a pheasant. In so doing, the dog presumably became trapped under ice.

The hunter, not having actually witnessed his dog jumping into the slough, due to heavy vegetation, was up to his chest in freezing water calling and blowing his whistle frantically. When Stewart arrived on the scene, the hunter was stumbling and nearly incoherent. Stewart coaxed the hunter out of the water, helped him navigate the long walk back to his truck, turned on the truck’s heater, got the hunter out of his wet clothes, and was trying to talk the hunter into allowing him to call an ambulance as he had begun to shake uncontrollably.

Through Stewart’s efforts, the hunter began to warm up and recovered to the point that he was able to drive himself home. In Stewart’s absence, it is very likely, if not certain, that the condition of the hunter would have deteriorated and may have been fatal.

It is this type of compassionate behavior that the Caught in the Act of Doing Good program intends to reward. Thank you, Mike, for personifying good sportsmanship.