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North Idaho Meetings To Let Anglers Be Heard

Fishermen and others will tell Idaho Fish and Game Department officials what they think about several proposed changes for the 1996-97 fishing season at meetings next week in North Idaho.

Ned Horner, Panhandle regional fisheries manager, said in a news release that most proposed changes aren’t controversial. It’s likely, however, that he and other officials will hear from a few disgruntled anglers.

One potentially controversial issue is the proposal to permit anglers to keep as many northern pike as they can catch at Hayden Lake. Although most fishermen apparently are in favor of removing the pike limit at the lake, there are some anglers who want to see the pike population increase.

Several years ago, furtive bucket biologists caught pike from one or more lakes in the Coeur d’Alene River drainage and released them into Hayden. The pike multiplied fast and may have been significant factor in the decline of the trout fishery.

The state pike limit is five a day. If the limit is lifted for Hayden, many anglers almost certainly will kill a dozen or more a day and possibly keep the pike population from continuing to expand. Several months ago, the department unsuccessfully tried to persuade the state’s Fish and Game Commission to remove the pike limit.

Fishermen can comment on a proposal to reduce the Hayden crappie limit from 15 to 10 per day, with a 10-inch minimum size.

Horner said the present limit for lake trout at Priest Lake is resulting in over-harvest.

He said the department is proposing a modified slot limit as the best management option for Priest Lake. The proposal might be criticized by Priest Lake-area anglers.

If approved, the present slot limit of three fish between 26 and 32 inches and one longer than 32 inches would be changed to a limit of two fish, none between 24 and 36 inches and only one longer than 36 inches. Such a limit should result in some large mackinaw trout while allowing the taking of smaller, good-eating macks.

Another option, he said, is to go back to a simple two-fish-per-day limit. Horner said this will result in a continuing decline in the average size of fish, with the average size eventually dropping to 15 to 17 inches. And, he said, large fish will be lost.

“Opinion is split on which option to adopt,” he said, “with many long-time residents of the Priest River/Priest Lake area favoring the simple two-fish regulation or a return to cutthroat and kokanee by eliminating lake trout.”

It would be impossible to eliminate mackinaw trout, he said.

“No matter what management option is chosen,” Horner sid, “some anglers will be dissatisfied.”

The department recommends that Lake Pend Oreille be opened to trout harvest from the last Saturday in April to Nov. 30. The lake has been opened on May 1 each year.

Other proposed changes: Alder and Evans creeks, drop fishing closure and go back to a July 1 opener with a six-trout limit; Gamble Lake, electric motors only; Jewel Lake, trout season the last Saturday in April through Nov. 30; Priest River, open all year; Little North Fork, North Fork, South Fork and mainstem of Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers, two chinook salmon per day.

Horner said several other proposals were dropped due to “public concern” expressed during June meetings.

“There will be no reduction in the 25-fish kokanee limit and the bull trout fishery will remain open on Lake Pend Oreille,” he said. “Bonner Lake in Boundary County will not be managed as a quality trout fishery.”

Horner said there are no plans to extend the catch-and-release area on the St. Joe River during the next biennium.

“However, during the next two years,” he said, “a comprehensive overhaul of the Spokane River drainage trout regulations will be undertaken. Future management direction calls for managing for wild trout with simpler regulations that offer some harvest opportunity as well as catch and release.

“Rainbow stocking in the rivers will be phased out over the next two years. Rainbows will be stocked in ponds along the rivers to provide maximum harvest opportunity. We will use the next two years to tailor a regulation package that fits the broadest public need.”

Proposed changes in present regulations will be discussed at public meetings Sept. 5 at the VFW Hall in Priest River; Sept. 6 at the Forest Service building in Sandpoint and Sept. 7 at the fish and game office in Coeur d’Alene