For the sixth year Idaho Trout Unlimited presents the top ten stories affecting trout, salmon and steelhead and their watersheds in Idaho. You can find the previous top ten here for 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009. There are always a lot of wild trout tales out there and we try to feature some from around the state. This year we see much good work going on at the local level.
1. The shiny object of a record Snake River Sockeye Salmon adult return in 2014 grabbed headlines and pushed out any discussion of the chronic low numbers of the Snake River spring and summer chinook salmon, which have more high quality habitat than any other Columbia River salmon run, yet are upstream of the eight Federal dams. Still lots of empty rooms in the five star hotels that the central Idaho backcountry represents to anadromous fish.
4. Restoration of the Coeur d’Alene Basin and its fish and wildlife habitat took steps forward, including completion of an important demonstration project on the Coeur d’Alene River.
5. The Bear River Narrows hydroelectric project will not go away. Opposition to this project, that includes a large cross section of society, is still organized and commenting on the idea.
6. Check out this cool video of habitat restoration of the Yankee Fork, trees being placed in the stream by chainsaw, heavy equipment and chopper! This project is a cooperative effort of many parties: Salmon-Challis National Forest, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, US Bureau of Reclamation and Trout Unlimited.
The Yankee Fork work is part of the larger efforts in the Upper Salmon River basin as described here.
8. A pure strain of native redband trout live in Dry Creek, just a few miles from Idaho State Capitol. In December the city of Boise announced a new agreement to protect the watershed and trail use, including improvement of stream crossings, all of which will help this isolated population of native trout thrive.
August 16, 2014 Posted by John C. Ellsworth, Vice-President Idaho Council of Trout Unlimited
“Identifying Movement Patterns and Spawning Areas of Invasive Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in Yellowstone Lake Investigators Annual Report for 2013 (July 2014)”, the final report for the 2013 season of telemetry and netting on Yellowstone Lake, is now available online for automatic download here:
Save these dates, August 2-3, 2014. The Big Wood River in Ketchum, Idaho will be the site for the inaugural Big Wood River Single Fly Event. The proceeds will help fund TU’s Big Wood River Home Rivers Initiative, and will be put to use “on the ground;” protecting, re-connecting, restoring, and sustaining the Big Wood River and its wild trout fishery. Event Schedule: Friday, August 1 – for pre-event fishing, please contact Chad Chorney; Saturday, August 2 – registration and welcome dinner begins at 6 pm; Sunday, August 3 – event fishing, lunch, awards dinner and fundraiser
For more information, please contact Chad Chorney (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Nancy Bradley(email@example.com)
It is time to crawl out of our winter hibernation. We are starting to form the agenda for our spring meeting April 12 in Sandpoint. If there is a topic to discuss or action item for the council please contact me. Council meetings are a great forum to discuss concerns that are important to local chapters.
As noted below, this is a good time to be in Sandpoint for fishing and fun times. Please consider this opportunity to explore our northern; some say “most beautiful “part of the state.
Thank you for your time,
Greetings from the north country— I have set up for rooms at the Best Western Edgewater Resort for the spring meeting- They have given a price of $68 dollars for both a room with a King and one with two queens- their number is 208-263-3194- As always you need to tell them that you are with Trout Unlimited- I told them there could be some that would want Thursday, most for Friday and Saturday- could have this rate for all plus sunday- We are still in the process of finallizing the meeting room- that info will follow- Also, for those of you that would like to do a one day float on the St. Joe or the CDA let me know so I can line up enough boats for the day- could be thursday friday, sunday or even monday if so want- This is a very good time to be fishing these two rivers- would be some midge, baetis, and possibly some sqwalla stones-All wild native westslope cutts- later my friends- loren
For the fifth year running Idaho Trout Unlimited presents the top ten stories affecting trout, salmon and steelhead and their watersheds in Idaho. You can find the previous top ten here for 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.
2. The war on invasive lake trout continues in Yellowstone Lake, an initiative of the National Park Service, other government agencies, and a number of interest groups. In 2013 the commercial-like fishing effort resulted in a slight increase in the numbers of lake trout caught but the effort to do it went up, and this is a good sign. Meanwhile, there are efforts to suppress the lake trout population through killing the fish in the embryo stage using electrodes on the bottom of the lake in documented spawning areas. The donations from fishing groups in 2012 towards the equipment used to track lake trout have proven very useful in identifying spawning areas. More information on Yellowstone Lake efforts is available here. Meanwhile the fishing efforts on Lake Pend Oreille have knocked back the lake trout population to where the kokanee salmon are beginning to rebound, as discussed here.
3. Silver Creek restoration project begins. One of Idaho’s premier fly fishing streams is getting a major facelift with an aim to improve water temperatures. The first phase of the project is underway and more information is available at the savesilvercreek.org website.
4. Federal Judge stops dredging plans on the North Fork Clearwater River. Judge Robert Holt, with the U.S. Department of Interior, concluded that recreation opportunities like fishing and camping and the archaeological history along the North Fork of the Clearwater River deserve protection over the desires from miners who had filed at least 30 placer claims to mine gold from the stream. This section of the North Fork of the Clearwater upstream of Dworshak Reservoir is in a safer place. More information can be found here.
5. The salmon saga slogs along. In September the Federal dam agencies released a new Biological Opinion. It’s a lot like the previous ones, and the previous plans have been found wanting by Federal courts. The last three BiOps have been found in violation of the Endangered Species Act and have been inadequate to protect and restore the Snake River salmon and steelhead runs. This is nothing new as the litigation dates back twenty years. In fact 2013 is the twenty year anniversary when the state of Idaho and Governor Cecil Andrus sued that the Federal government treatment of salmon violated the Endangered Species Act. In 2014 we will commemorate the twenty year anniversary of Andrus winning that lawsuit. Yes the new plan is like the old plans. Yet there seems a glimmer of hope near end of this year as outlined in a recent report that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) asked the Ruckelshaus Center – in partnership with Oregon Consensus at Portland State University – to conduct. These parties completed a situation assessment of regional views about salmon and steelhead recovery planning in the Columbia River Basin over the long term. And maybe in 2014 we can begin to see some progress on a roundtable to discuss recovery of the salmon and steelhead runs that migrate from Idaho to the Pacific Ocean and back.
6. The Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation completed projects on the upper Blackfoot River, including a fish population study. Then, through effective outreach, the partners worked with local irrigators to restore upstream fish passage and install fish screens at two irrigation diversions on Lanes and Diamond creeks. The two diversion modifications include one on Diamond Creek and one on Lanes Creek, where the outgoing ditches on both diversions were screened. New measurement weirs on outgoing ditches to aid landowners in measuring flow were installed. This work opened up 25-30 miles of new upstream habitat. The projects reconnect critical spawning and rearing habitat for native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the Blackfoot watershed.
7. Discussion about a proposed National Monument for the White Clouds mountains took off in spring 2013 and many interest groups are weighing in with opinions. To date the discussions have not emphasized the fishery values in the area, one that contains the headwaters of the main Salmon River, the East Fork of the Salmon and the Big Wood River. While the debate and discussion of National Monument designation unfolds in 2014 it is worth noting that stream restoration work has moved forward in this area, for example the reconnection of portions of Pole Creek, and more opportunities exist in these watersheds. One question worth exploring in 2014 is how National Monument designation could help or hinder fishery restoration work in the area?
8. The Big Wood Home Rivers Initiative seeks to take advantage of a supportive local angling community and our long history of restoration success to restore the full wild trout potential of the Big Wood. Our objective is to both restore fish populations and the habitat they need, and to educate landowners that live along the banks of the river and its tributaries about how to protect and steward those unique resources. Home Rivers Initiatives are national programs that place a full-time staff member in a watershed to live and work with and within the local community and bring TU’s scientific, policy, grassroots and legal expertise to bear on watershed- scale restoration and protection.
As is common to all of TU’s conservation work we do not hope to accomplish our goals alone. The list of project partners is long and growing. These partners in the Wood River Valley include; Idaho Fish and Game, The Nature Conservancy, The Wood River Land Trust, Hemingway Chapter of TU , Silver Creek Outfitters, private landowners and Idaho Department of Water Resources .
9. TheOwyhee Basin Redband Trout Restoration project is working to ensure that this special river provides redband populations with the necessary protections so that they continue to persist in the Owyhee Basin as the climate changes. Trout Unlimited’s Science Team recently assessed the habitat and vegetation across the Owyhee Basin, which identifies places where fish need the most help and where TU can apply its expertise to restore these areas. We’re using that analysis to do on-the-ground restoration to protect these fish so that they can move within the river and establish themselves and remain viable. Working with federal and state agencies and private landowners, TU is focusing on protecting coldwater springs, which provide important summer refuge areas for redband trout. We’re also planting native plants and keeping livestock out of streams to improve river conditions. We’re also helping to rejoin areas of the river so isolated redband populations can have improved access to habitat.
10. Lower Boise River restoration initiative will benefit from the announced funding of a grant to the Ted Trueblood Chapter and other organizations to establish the Boise River Enhancement Network. This network will build on the work done to date where the Ted Trueblood Chapter has pioneered working with landowners along the lower Boise River to improve aquatic habitat to improve the unique urban fishery in Idaho’s highest populated area. More information is available at the Boise River Enhancement Network website.
The fall meeting is October 26 in Boise at Idaho Fish and Game Nature Center. The agenda is not final and subject to change. Below are some topics to peak your interest.
National meeting report
Idaho Council Website 101- A how to use and post
Idaho Water Project update and introduction new director- Mark Davidson
IDFG report- Ed Schriever, IDFG staff
Effects of this summer fires on fish- TU Staff (Helen or Dan)
Owyhee basin initiative, TU staff (Pam and Kurt)
Idaho Youth of Trout Unlimited-Christina Assante
Elections for State officers
ICA Scholarship fund
We have secured a rate at the Holiday Inn Express on Parkcenter in Boise. The hotel is located across the river from Fish and Game headquarters and Nature Center. Also, close access to downtown Boise. Please ask for the Trout Unlimited state council meeting rate which is $83.00/night. The number to call 1-208-345-2002 or 1-855-799-6861. If you have any problems Cindy Crane is the manager that set this up. http://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/boise/boidt/hoteldetail/directions
The Pacific Fisheries Management Council, meeting in Boise on September 16, voted to protect forage fish from the development of commercial fisheries. This is good for salmon and steelhead which rely on forage fish when at sea. Check out Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker’s blog about it here.
Idaho Trout Unlimited weighed in with comments during the public testimony period prior to the vote. The letter follows:
Representing Idaho outdoor anglers who care about salmon and steelhead, the Idaho Council of Trout Unlimited ask the Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) to fulfill the commitment it made a year ago to prohibit unregulated fisheries targeting forage fish on the West Coast. The time to act is now, and we urge the Council to begin the process of amending one or more of its management plans to extend protection to currently unmanaged forage species.
The Idaho Council of Trout Unlimited works to conserve, protect, reconnect, and restore Idaho’s coldwater fisheries and watersheds. While our fisheries may be located hundreds of miles from the ocean, we know that recovering salmon and steelhead runs depend on a healthy ocean ecosystem. Every year, millions of ocean‐bound juvenile salmon and steelhead migrate through mountain streams, over dams, and past cities and farms. Their survival depends to a large degree on forage fish as cover from an array of predators. Later, after leaving the river, they depend on forage fish as a critical food source for the bulk of their life cycle in the ocean.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC) wrote a letter in November 2012 stating that electric ratepayers spend $250 million a year to offset the damage to salmon habitat caused by federal hydroelectric dams. In its letter to the PFMC, the NPCC cited its independent scientific analysis finding that the Columbia’s estuary and plume are “exceptionally important” in determining the proportion of juvenile salmon and steelhead trout that will return to the basin as spawning adults, largely because of the presence of forage fish.
The Idaho Council of Trout Unlimited is supportive and appreciative of the Council’s attention to this matter and the work it has done to transition to an ecosystem‐based approach to fisheries management by adopting a Fishery Ecosystem Plan. We understand the Council doesn’t control all of the factors affecting the survival and recovery of Pacific salmon and steelhead. Significant money and effort is expended to restore their freshwater habitats, yet salmon and steelhead spend the majority of their lives in the Pacific ocean and we are dedicated to ensuring they have the best chance possible to return. The Council has an opportunity now to take an important step forward in helping to maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem so our salmon and steelhead can return home to Idaho.
Mark Davidson will pursue collaborative water projects with agriculture
Boise—Trout Unlimited today announced the hiring of Mark Davidson as TU’s new director of the Idaho Water Project. In the position, Davidson will oversee collaborative projects throughout Idaho that encourage smart water management and meet diverse needs, from agriculture and industry to fish and wildlife resources.
“We’re excited to have Mark’s leadership and experience on board for Trout Unlimited,” said Scott Yates, director of TU’s Western Water Project, which has completed scores of landowner habitat conservation projects in six Western states. “Trout Unlimited has a track record of working with ranchers, landowners and other water users to find balanced, commonsense solutions that keep our rivers and fisheries intact and healthy. For years here in Idaho, Mark has been a leader in bringing folks together to find win-win solutions. He’ll hit the ground running.”
Mark has worked for more than a decade for The Nature Conservancy in their Hailey office. In the first few years at TNC, he managed the Silver Creek Preserve. Since 2003, as TNC’s Senior Conservation Manager for central Idaho, he has been involved with numerous innovative land and water transactions, including a number of restoration projects in the Upper Salmon River.
An Idaho native who grew up on a small farm on the Snake River Plain, Mark understands the needs and realities of agriculture. In the past decade, he has worked closely with the ranch and farm community, completing restoration projects that enhance Idaho’s rivers and streams while improving water management and irrigation infrastructure for producers.
“There are tremendous opportunities in Idaho for developing projects that benefit fisheries as well as ranchers and water users,” said Mark. “I look forward to working with old friends in the agriculture community as well as meeting new ones to find pragmatic solutions.”