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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Panhandle fisheries manager Jim Fredericks knows tending fish has social element

Jim Fredericks

Jim Fredericks was named Panhandle fisheries manager seven years ago after seven years as the regional fisheries manager based in Idaho Falls.

“Without a doubt, the biggest single challenge in my tenure here has been the recovery of the Lake Pend Oreille fishery,” Fredericks said. “There were all the technical challenges associated with the magnitude and complexity of the problem – the biology, methodology, funding and coordination of the effort.

“But then, there’s the social side of it – the importance of engaging anglers, building public support and keeping people informed.

“On top of all that is the fact that this was the first time something had been done at this kind of scale. The fact that it’s been such a large effort involving so many different people, both within IDFG and with external partners has made it challenging, but that’s what’s made it fun and rewarding.

“To now see the rainbow fishery coming back to its former glory and to have hundreds of boats fishing for kokanee in the summer – fisheries management just doesn’t get better than that.”

Less positive challenges are associated with maintaining good fishing in the face of increasing costs of raising hatchery fish, he said.

“Skyrocketing fish feed costs coupled with a relatively flat budget have led to about 10 percent fewer fish being stocked in the region,” he said.

“I certainly didn’t get into this job to make fishing worse, so that’s been a tough pill to swallow, but I’ve tried to do that in a manner that affects anglers as little as possible.

“By using tag-returns to evaluate where anglers get the biggest bang for the buck from our hatchery fish, I think we’ve been pretty successful, but we’re at the point where cuts don’t go unnoticed.”

Other projects Fredericks oversaw include the creation of the Hayden Lake kokanee fishery, a much simpler set of fishing rules, improved float boat access on the Coeur d’Alene River, the development of Spicer Pond in St. Maries, renovated access sites at Hayden and Rose lakes, research and a much greater understanding of the Priest Lake fishery, cutthroat and bull trout populations that have mostly improved over the past decade and more.

“It’s important to note that these are all largely the products of other people,” he said. “In most cases, a fishery manager doesn’t actually do the work. It’s the biologists, researchers, access foreman, engineers, the guys in the hatcheries and the seasonal crews that make it happen.

“We’ve got very good people in the Panhandle and it’s important that anglers know that.”

In his new position as chief of Idaho’s Fisheries Program, Fredericks sees numerous challenges, but perhaps none are greater than the growing demand for water.

“Our challenge will be to try to minimize and mitigate impacts on fish populations and angling opportunities as we try to meet societal demands for water,” he said.

“People are becoming less connected with the natural world,” he said, citing an even bigger picture issue spawned by urbanization.

“Our challenge is to keep people interested and engaged in fish and wildlife management. Part of that is increasing youth participation in fishing and hunting, and another part is identifying ways we can better communicate with the public.”