The 2019 Top Ten Trout Stories

Every year Idaho Trout Unlimited compiles the top ten stories affecting trout, salmon and steelhead in the Gem State.  For previous years top ten check out years 2018, 2017, 2016201520142013201220112010 and 2009.

  1. Salmon Return to Center Stage. In April the Andrus Center for Public Policy hosted a day-long conference Energy, Salmon Community: Can we Come Together?The purpose of the conference was to revisit the long-standing salmon issue where in Idaho we have had Snake River salmon and steelhead threatened with extinction for a generation. At this meeting U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson made a keynote speech that lays out a vision to save salmon and the Bonneville Power Administration at the same time. In what was remarked as the “most significant speech by an Idaho politician in fifteen years,: Rep. Simpson discussed the financial problems faced by BPA and the need for a “Power Act 2.0” to address the salmon and BPA needs in a coordinated fashion.  He challenged the audience the “what if” the four lower Snake River dams were to be removed and how the region could make the economic and social adjustments to that type of a future, one that would help secure the future survival of the Snake River anadromous fish runs. Also at the conference Idaho Governor Brad Little announced his formation of a Salmon Working Group of Idahoans from different interests and the group has met several times in 2019 to develop Idaho-based innovative approaches to conserving the salmon runs.
  2. Anderson Ranch Reservoir proposals create uncertainties for Idaho’s blue ribbon fishery on the South Fork Boise River. Through 2019 three proposals affecting Anderson Ranch Dam and Reservoir advanced, which may affect the South Fork Boise River fishery. First, in April Idaho Department of Water Resources approved an application by Elmore County to pump water out of Anderson Ranch Reservoir into the Long Tom canal system to bring more water to the Mountain Home area. The decision was opposed by Treasure Valley based water and conservation interests and local governments. In summer the Cat Creek Energy pump storage proposal advanced with additional filings for water rights that would also include additional storage of water in the pump storage project that could be sent to downstream water users. Then the Bureau of Reclamation announced scoping of an Environmental Impact Statement for raising Anderson Ranch Dam by six feet to create additional water storage. It is unclear how these different proposals will fit together, but they all rely on capturing water flows in the South Fork Boise River that are important for spring freshet velocities that create and perpetuate trout habitat. This topic will definitely be followed in 2020.
  3. Steelhead run collapse in 2019 led to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to close the steelhead fishing season on the Clearwater River through the end of the calendar year, with significant impacts to the river communities and guiding businesses in the area.
  4. The use of beaver dam analogues to help restore stream habitat and conserve water sees a greater widespread use across Idaho. For many years the reintroduction and transplant of beavers into some watersheds has been one method to improve habitat. More recently the method to mimic the work of beaver is being employed to jumpstart some habitat improvement in small streams. The small wood structures, usually posts and willow branches weaved between, help slow water velocities and allow water to penetrate the ground, which can act as a sponge and release waters later into the summer. See more here about this low tech and low cost method.
  5. Big steps on the Big Wood River in 2019 include a new fish ladder to reconnect Elkhorn Creek to the Big Wood River at Lane Ranch near Ketchum. This work is being completed at this writing. And the preparation for on the Bridge to Bridge project advanced and aims for ground work on the flood plain and riparian corridor in fall 2020.
  6. Lake Pend Oreille Walleye Netting: The relentless efforts of Idaho Fish and Game to suppress lake trout (which threatens the kokanee population) is working. The program is leading the recovery of kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille, but a new threat looms with a growing walleye population. Walleye were illegally introduced in the Clark Fork River, and will eat more than their fair share of kokanee and other supporting fish species unless checked. Yes, walleye are a popular sport fish, but a walley fishery in Lake Pend Oreille is not the Idaho way. Best we see these illegally-introduced fish controlled and the salmonids prevail.
  7. In January, new Governor Brad Little talks climate change. Idaho’s collaborative efforts with federal agencies, conservation groups, industries and residents have put Idaho out front in tackling tough environmental problems involving forests, rangelands, water uses and other issues, The newly sworn in Idaho governor shocked some at the Idaho Environmental Forum by declaring that climate change is real and will have to be dealt with. “Climate is changing, there’s no question about it,” he said. “Sometimes what you do from a regulatory standpoint might be counter to what the right thing to do is, but you’ve got to recognize it. It’s here. We’ve just got to figure out how we’re going to cope with it. Now, reversing it is going to be a big darn job.”
  8. Idaho Fish and Game fisheries staff are recognized for catch-and-release research by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), which recently honored IDFG with the Ernest Thompson Seton Award for the agency’s research on the effects of air exposure on caught-and-released fish. The annual award is given to a fish and wildlife agency to recognize outstanding accomplishments using science in wildlife management and effectively communicating that science to the public.
  9. As the year draws to a close a strong reminder that Barber Dam on the Boise River continues to bedevil river users as power interruptions have impacted the fishery and irrigation. Now the Ada County Commission has voted to put the dam up for auction a mere three years prior to the power license expiration where an expensive license renewal process awaits the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process.
  10. Eight year old angling enthusiast Sophie Egizi registered a new state record catch of a 36.5 inch Gerrard rainbow trout from Lake Pend Oreille this fall. She was trolling flies from a boat on the lake, picture at

Annual Environmental Conference, Cecil Andrus Center, Mike Simpson, Photo by Madison Park
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