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December 9, 2010

Commission adopts new fish seasons and rules

By Ed Mitchell, IDFG

   The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, meeting in Jerome Nov. 18, adopted new seasons and rules for 2011-2012.

   The rules come with two major changes: a new "newspaper" format for the rule brochure, and year-round seasons will be the rule, rather than the exception.

   The open year-round-season rule is a way to limit the number of rule exceptions, fisheries Chief Ed Schriever told commissioners. Many Idaho streams already are open year round, but they are listed as exceptions because statewide the general season for rivers and streams is from Memorial Day through Nov. 30. The new rules make rivers and stream open year-round the rule and those that have special seasons will now be listed as exceptions.

   Special seasons and gear restrictions were maintained in rivers and streams where continued protection remains necessary to meet fishery objectives.

   The rules and seasons also are presented regionally, which further reduces the number of exceptions. The result is a thinner book, and a format that fisheries managers think will be easier to understand.

   Two other changes that have raised some public concern affect the Snake River below the American Falls Dam, and an extended ice-fishing season on Henrys Lake.

   In the Snake River from the dam downstream to Eagle Rock the harvest season would end Oct. 15, and a catch-and-release season would run from Oct. 16 through the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend.

   This is a social issue balanced with biological issues, Southeast Region Commissioner Randy Budge said. In most years water drops about the middle of October and the river is reduced to channels in basalt. Some have raised legitimate concern with ethics.

   "There is a perception that people take out big fish during the end of harvest season after water drops," Budge said. He proposed the earlier closure of the harvest season, which was adopted unanimously.

   In Henrys Lake, a month-long ice-fishing season, which closes Nov. 30, was extended through Jan. 1, 2012.

   Upper Snake Region Commissioner Cameron Wheeler said there is no question that Henrys Lake is a highly-studied water. The decision comes down to a social issue; he said he would go with the biology and support the increased fishing opportunity. "This is not taken lightly. This is an extremely difficult decision."

The new rules booklet should be available to the public by the end of the year.

Commission considers wildlife salvage, grizzly statement

   The Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting, Nov. 18, directed Fish and Game to develop rules for salvage of accidentally killed wildlife.

   Current rules do not allow private citizens to salvage usable parts of accidentally killed wildlife, including road kill. Nor do rules allow commercial sale for salvaged parts.

   The commission directed Fish and Game to develop rules that would allow public salvage for personal use and commercial salvage such as the pelts that could be salvaged and sold.

   Assistant Director Sharon Kiefer presented an update on proposed legislation that would give the commission authority to create a mentored hunting program.

   She also presented two interstate projects involving Idaho, which are part of the Western Governors' Wildlife Corridors and Crucial Wildlife Habitats Initiative.

   The projects, one involving Idaho, Oregon and Washington and the other involving Idaho and Montana, would help identify key migration corridors, crucial habitat and recommend tools for landscape conservation as part of a state based integrated decision support system.

   The projects would help ensure wildlife information is considered early in planning and decision making processes. And they allow states to develop a transboundary picture of crucial habitat and corridors across jurisdictions. They would look regionwide, rather than just statewide, include climate change adaptation strategies and develop a standard framework for mapping wildlife corridors.

   The commission also adopted the state's Bighorn Sheep Management Plan. Fish and Game Director Cal Groen noted that the interest in hunting bighorn sheep in Idaho has been growing. And the biggest ram ever taken in the state was taken this year, he said.

   Commissioners also adopted a position statement on Yellowstone grizzly bears, expressing the commission's contention that increased bear mortalities are a sign of an increased bear population. The statement also holds that nuisance bears killed outside primary conservation area in Idaho should not count against mortality thresholds established in grizzly bear conservation strategy.

   The commission also does not support any "actions that curtail or limit hunting opportunities outside the primary conservation area, to enhance the expansion of grizzly bear populations," the statement says.

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