Idaho Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore had some good news from his department for lawmakers today: “It was a really good fall for hunting,” with mild winters leading to high winter survivals for fawns, leading to hunters seeing more game. Also, he said, “Another success story is the recently opened kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille.” About 170,000 predatory lake trout have been removed from that fishery since 2006, he said, and in 2012 the kokanee “began showing a strong recovery.” This year, he said, marks the highest numbers of kokanee seen in Lake Pend Oreille in 40 years. For the first time in more than a decade, anglers are now allowed to keep up to 15 of the fish daily. Plus, there were record salmon and steelhead runs.
Programs aimed at youth are attracting more young hunters and anglers, he said; in 2014, 3,900 youth went hunting for deer and elk for the first time, after lawmakers lowered the minimum age for big-game hunting to 10 for kids accompanied by a licensed adult. “We’ve been very successful at trying to get more youth into this great outdoor activity,” Moore told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in his annual budget pitch. The director’s annual report to the Fish & Game Commission, which is online here, has more detail.
Still, Fish & Game relies on license and tag sales and a federal excise tax on sales of hunting and fishing equipment for more than half of its funding. “Over the last few years … license revenue has not kept up,” Moore said. Fish & Game gets no state general funds. “Our budget is lean,” he said.
Rather than just increase license fees, Fish & Game is pushing a “price lock” plan, in which resident fees would go up, but those who buy hunting and fishing licenses every year could lock in the 2015 rates. “Thirty percent of our license buyers buy every year,” Moore said. The idea is to get the other 70 percent to do the same. “We actually make more money selling more licenses than we do raising the cost,” he said, because price increases create resistance that keep some buyers away. The “price lock” proposal is contained in HB 32 this year, which was introduced in the House Resources Committee, but currently is being held while lawmakers seek more information.
Fish & Game’s budget proposal for next year shows no increase from this year.