Friday, August 27, 2010

Idaho Fish and Game Considering Year-round General Season

With a hat-tip to the Westfly boards, I stumbled on a public survey for proposed changes to the current Idaho Fishing Regulations.

We fly fisherman can spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about fishing regulations. We like to ponder what this water or that water might be like if only it wasn’t being pillaged regularly by the harvest crowd. I think fisheries science is proving that viewpoint is more wishful thinking than reality. But that doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about my favorite lake or stream being catch and release or fly fishing only (or even something crazier like dry fly only, or you can fish with a Wiggle Bug* and a rod you built yourself).

*Whatever water they made it mandatory on would immediately become one of the least fished in the USA. No offense, Larry Tullis, I love the thing. I've never fished with it, but I love the mere sight of it.

The surveys make it pretty clear that Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) want to simplify the regulations considerably. This makes sense considering the state budgets are in the toilet and IDFG has even less money than usual to enforce the regulations. The last thing they need is a set of overly complex rules to deal with as they try to keep John Q. Fisherman on the straight and narrow. One of the ways they want simplify the world is by making the general season go year round rather than from Memorial Day to the end of the calendar year (or the end of November, it seems like it is different for different regions, but I am not sure).

I love the year-round season idea. Growing up in Utah, I never knew anything other than a year-round season until I moved to Idaho. Plus I love fishing in the Spring and occasionally even in the middle of an Idaho winter. IDFG are proposing that many of the seasonal closures that are known to protect important spawning habitat (like from Ashton Dam down to Vernon Bridge* on the Henry’s Fork) stay in place.

*Please take note, Teton Valley Lodge.

I believe that the old, general closed Spring season is an antiquated idea. If you have ever fished the Green River below Flaming Gorge in March or April (at the height of the rainbow spawn, or even in the winter while the browns are spawning) you know that fisherman are all over that river, yet it still has some of the highest fish-per-mile numbers found anywhere in the West (and probably the world). It doesn’t seem like a year-round season has caused problems for one of the best rivers in the country, so I always wondered why it was the default position for the entire state of Idaho. Apparently someone at IDFG had a similar question.

Utah equivalent of the Fish and Game post signs at the big redds on the Green and the folks behind the coutners in the shops and on the guides on the oars generally encourage newcomers to be careful of the redds. I am all for education of the angler in these cases. Closing the river should be a last resort. Some of us need to fish in the Spring because we have been staring at nothing but the interior walls of our homes and offices for the last three months.

I'm not advocating that we let every angler in Idaho chase spawners piled up below a dam (and neither is IDFG), but in some cases I think the regulations ere far to greatly on the side of caution without any scientific backing.

I once sat in on a presentation from Jim Fredericks, who is a fisheries biologist with IDFG in the Upper Snake River Region. He talked about how some fly fisherman wanted the regulations changed on a local river to remove one of the few Spring seasons in this part of the state. The river in question is an excellent a Spring fishery, but these gents felt that the parade of anglers was damaging the spawn and ruining the whole river. Fredericks explained that the river had a longstanding Spring season with plenty of fishing pressure over the years, yet the river had never been in better shape than it was right now. It couldn't possibly hold more fish or more big fish, it was (excuse the pun) stuffed to the gills.

So go take the survey, and vote for the year-round season if you think its a good idea. If you don’t, then vote the other way, I won’t hold it against you. Either way, Its nice to live in a state that is open to giving anglers more fishing opportunities rather than taking them away.

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