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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho Fish and Game fishing for angler comments

Idaho Fish and Game biologist Joe Thiessen holds up a pair of fish.  (Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game)
By Eric Barker Lewiston Tribune

LEWISTON – The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is contemplating regulation changes that could affect the quantity and quality of trout that can be caught and kept on the wild section of the Selway River and in the Deer Creek Reservoir, which is remote but easier to access.

Other proposals could boost bag limits for brook trout on Elk Creek Reservoir and change the way motorized boats are regulated on family fishing waters in the Clearwater Region.

The agency is crafting fishing regulations for the next three years and gathering comments from anglers to help guide the work. Over the previous two weeks, fisheries officials from the agency’s Clearwater Region have detailed some of the proposed changes during public meetings at which they also collected comments on the 2024 spring chinook season.

Wilderness experience

The Selway River is governed by catch-and-release-only regulations upstream of Selway Falls. Most of that upper section is within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area that is accessible by rafting, hiking and backpacking, by horse and by those who fly into airstrips at remote ranches. The river is loaded with native Westslope cutthroat trout but anglers must release the fish they catch. Regulations do allow anglers fishing in its tributary streams to keep two trout per day.

Fisheries biologist Joe Thiessen, while speaking at a meeting in Lewiston, said some who visit the Selway have told the department that the opportunity to catch and keep trout would enhance their wilderness experience.

The agency regularly surveys the river and monitors cutthroat populations there. The fish are abundant but most are less than 14 inches in length. Tagging of fish indicates trout from the upper section don’t migrate downstream of the falls and a tiny sliver, about 3% of the population, is encountered by anglers.

For comparison, the agency also looked at cutthroat populations in the upper North Fork of the Clearwater River, and its tributaries, Kelly, Cayuse and Weitas creeks. Some of those streams allow limited harvest while others are catch and release only. Thiessen said harvest doesn’t limit the populations and the overall abundance and the percentage of older, larger fish in the population is similar in places that allow limited harvest and those that do not.

“In remote wild trout fisheries with limited access, we do not see enough angling pressure for limited harvest to impact fish populations,” he said.

The agency is asking anglers if they support providing limited harvest opportunity in the Selway upstream of its falls or if it should maintain catch-and-release regulations.

Tiger trout

At Deer Creek Reservoir near Headquarters, the department releases about 2,500 1-year-old tiger trout each year. The reservoir is also stocked with rainbow trout. Regulations now in place allow anglers to keep two tiger trout per day but none of them can be less than 14 inches in length.

Thiessen said 82% of tiger trout in the reservoir are less than 14 inches. Annual mortality of tiger trout increases from about 45% to 65% once the fish reach about 3 years of age. That is when they grow large enough to eat golden shiners and subsequently reach or exceed 14 inches, making them available to harvest.

The department estimates the reservoir holds about 250 14-inch tiger trout, 150 16-inch tiger trout and about 50 that are at least 18 inches. More restrictive regulations on the harvest of larger tiger trout would lead to a 78% jump in the number of fish more than 14 inches. But it would decrease tiger trout harvest by 20%.

It wouldn’t affect the harvest of rainbow trout.

The agency is asking anglers if they support regulations that would increase the number of large tiger trout, allow limited harvest of moderate-sized tiger trout or adopt regulations allowing more harvest of tiger trout.


In most of Idaho, anglers can keep as many as 25 brook trout per day. The non-native species has long been present in the state’s waters and can crowd out native trout. Elk Creek Reservoir is one of two places in the state where brook trout harvest is managed to produce trophy-sized fish. Henry’s Lake in the southeastern corner of the state is the other.

At the reservoir and in its tributaries, anglers are limited to six brook trout per day and must count any brook trout they catch among the overall daily bag limit of six trout.

But Fish and Game data indicates brook trout make up a small percentage of the harvest there, about 5%, and that they rarely account for more than two brook trout out of a six-trout bag limit.

Thiessen said the data indicates the restrictive limits neither increase the size or number of brook trout in the reservoir. The agency is asking anglers if it should simplify regulations there by adopting the statewide limit of 25 brook trout or continue to restrict harvest of brookies.


In recent years, the department has expanded the types of boat engines anglers can use while fishing at many of the small lakes and reservoirs it manages in Clearwater Region. But Winchester Lake, Moose Creek Reservoir and Spring Valley Reservoir remain under an electric-motors-only regulation.

The department is proposing to replace that regulation with one that forbids wakes and the use of personal watercraft like Jet Skis. They say doing so would keep the small lakes reserved for fishing rather than pleasure boating and would allow more anglers to access them.

More information on all of the proposed regulations in the Clearwater Region and throughout the state, as well as online comment forms, are available at

Barker may be contacted at or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.