20-05-13 Fish Transport@ C.jpg

Walleye—pictured here in a boat livewell—can have adverse effects on gamefish populations if released.

The Department of Fish and Game is reminding anglers this spring that transporting or stocking live fish in Idaho without a permit is both illegal and potentially harmful to ecosystems.

“Many anglers are unaware that it is illegal to take fish home while still alive,” the department’s Magic Valley Regional Office said in a prepared statement. “Even with laws against it, Fish and Game biologists and officers continue to find anglers transporting live fish. This problem has seemed to become worse lately, as most new boats are equipped with livewells.”

Unless residents hold live-fish transport or private pond permits, transporting live fish home for dinner or for life in captivity is a ticketable offense, the office said.

“Even inadvertent transport of live fish to your home to keep them ‘fresh’ prior to processing can lead to a misdemeanor citation,” it said.

Magic Valley Regional Office spokesman Terry Thompson said in an interview that a preferable option is killing fish quickly and storing them on ice.

“The quickest way to kill a fish, or what we call ‘reduce it to possession’ or ‘reduce it to bag,’ is to immediately hit it on the head to stun it, cut the gills to bleed it—which makes the fish a better eating fish—and then put it on ice,” he said.

Of all illegal activity reported, the Magic Valley Office said the dumping of walleye into state waters where they can harm native fish has been most concerning.

“The lack of walleye in these waters is intentional, either due to unfavorable habitat conditions, lack of sufficient prey or food, or because of the negative impacts that walleye can have on existing sport and nongame fish populations,” it said.

Another issue the office has seen is aquarium owners’ illegally dumping non-native fish into Idaho waterways, which can result in disease transfer. Convict cichlids, for example—a popular aquarium fish—have been identified in Blaine County, according to Fish and Game.

“The illegal act of introducing fish into another waterbody can potentially result in a felony charge,” the Magic Valley office stated.

The office is encouraging anyone who witnesses live fish transport or illegal fish-dumping to call the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 800-632-5999. Callers may be eligible for a reward, it said.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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