Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Recovery effort saves 11,500 trout

Trout Unlimited teams with water districts to reduce fish mortality


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Trout Unlimited members, from left, Mark Milkovich, Carl Evenson and Ed Northen, rescue stranded trout this fall from a local canal. In cooperation with local water entities, Trout Unlimited volunteers have rescued about 30,000 stranded trout during the past five years. Courtesy photo by Trout Unlimited

The Hemingway chapter of Trout Unlimited teamed with two local water entities this fall to save some 11,500 fish that would have otherwise been stranded in canals and most likely perished.

Rescuing fish is an annual endeavor undertaken by Trout Unlimited with the assistance of Water District 37 and Wood River Valley Irrigation District 45.

Trout Unlimited explained in a press release that when flow to irrigation canals is cut off at the end of an irrigation season, fish that swam into the waters have no way out.

“In the past, the dewatering of the canals has led to the death of thousands of wild trout that are stranded in draining canals,” the press release states.

With the cooperative effort between Trout Unlimited and the districts, the release states, “fish mortality is being greatly reduced.”

Trout Unlimited credits District 37 Water Master Kevin Lakey with helping the fish-rescue endeavor get started, explaining that Lakey originally contacted the organization because of his concern for trapped fish.

Lakey continues to work with Trout Unlimited by informing the chapter where and when he finds trapped fish and by serving as a liaison with other water delivery entities in the area.

Rescued fish are caught by volunteers in large nets and then transported back to the Big Wood River for release.

“This helps maintain the quality fishery that is an important part of the local economy,” the press release states. “Over the past five years, over 30,000 trout have been rescued.”

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game also participates in the rescue by providing the necessary “fish transfer” permits.

Trout Unlimited reported that fish mortality is also being reduced by a gradual water draw-down process now being practiced by District 45, which manages the canal that diverts water from the Big Wood River in the downtown Bellevue area. A gradual drawdown gives fish the opportunity to swim back to the river before they get stranded altogether.

“Due to the district informing the Hemingway Trout Unlimited chapter of the draw-down dates, the chapter is better able or organize the fish rescue,” the press release states. “Because of this, Trout Unlimited fish-rescue efforts have achieved a significant reduction in trapped trout in the District 45 canal, especially the larger or catchable-size trout.”

Carl Evenson, who directs the local Trout Unlimited fish-recovery operation, stated that an estimated 75 percent of the larger trout that swam into the canal are able to get back to the river on their own when the water is drawn down gradually.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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