The state Fish and Game Commission has lifted fishing limits on six southern Idaho reservoirs, and continuing drought conditions could force the lifting of restrictions on up to 20 more within the next month.
The commission, meeting in Idaho Falls Thursday, voted unanimously to eliminate bag and possession limits on Mountain Home Reservoir and its outlet canal, and Hot Creek Reservoir and Blair Trail Diversion, both northeast of Mountain Home.Limits also were lifted on Fish Creek Reservoir northeast of Carey, Thorne Creek north of Gooding, and Little Camas Reservoir near Fairfield.
Al Van Vooren, resident fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said water levels drawn down by irrigation demand from the already depleted reservoirs has made the situation serious for fish populations. But he did not ask the commission to approve "salvage" fishing on the reservoirs, which would have allowed fish to be caught with nets or by hand.
Fish and Game Director Jerry Conley said the condition of southern Idaho reservoirs is the worst he has seen in eight years as head of the department. He said he expects Thursday's action to be followed by the lifting of bag and possession limits on "15 or 20" additional reservoirs in the next 30 days but doubts the low water levels will result in massive fish kills.
"Generally the fish move out with the last (irrigation) flush," he said. "But then they're just being lost in the irrigation system, so why not let people catch them?"
The commission also agreed to close the salmon fishing season on the Little Salmon River, effective at Sunday.
Van Vooren said the river has been open for Chinook salmon fishing on most weekends since May, but that the run now has essentially ended.
Through June 25, he said, about 2,600 chinook had been taken from the Little Salmon by members of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe. Another 700 were caught by sport anglers.
Fish and Game officials also advised the commission of plans to transplant about 30 young trumpeter swans this weekend from the Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge in the Island Park Area.
Conley said the cygnets would be moved to the Grays Lake area and the Fort Hall Bottoms in eastern Idaho in the first attempted transplant of trumpeter swans in the state.
Officials plan to move 15 to 20 of the birds to the Grays Lake area, and up to 10 to the Fort Hall Bottoms. The operation is aimed at establishing new wintering areas for the swans to expand their habitat in the region.
There currently are about 140 trumpeter swans at the Red Rocks refuge, Conley said.