The Idaho Council of Trout Unlimited relocated 1,055 trout upstream into the Big Wood River on last week discovering a nearly dried-up section of the river south of Bellevue.
The rescue operation—led by council President and Hailey resident Ed Northen—used a trailer with a water tank to transport a mix of rainbow and brown trout to a section of the Big Wood River along Broadford Road, according to Fish and Game spokesman Terry Thompson.
The water level along a stretch of the Big Wood River near Glendale Road had dipped dangerously low due to recent dewatering activity for irrigation. According to Thompson, it’s unusual for fish-salvage operations to occur so early in the season.
“[Salvage operations] typically occur in the fall after the irrigation canals have been dewatered, since fish can become entrained in the canals over the summer months,” he said.
Thompson stressed that it’s illegal to transport live fish without a permit, due to the possibility of spreading disease across water bodies. That goes for even well-intentioned efforts to relocate trapped fish after water is diverted or turned off, he said.
“Trout Unlimited does have the necessary permits that allow them to do activities like this,” he said.
The Big Wood River has also experienced record low flows this month, which may have accelerated the dewatering activity. According to U.S. Geological Survey data, from June 8-17, the Lions Park gauge in Hailey recorded an average flow rate of about 537 cubic feet per second—well below the average for that time period of 1,585 cfs.
Farther north in Ketchum, the river hit its lowest-ever recorded flows for those 10 dates. The previous low-flow records between June 8-17 were set in 1966 and 2013, USGS data show.
For more, see Wednesday's issue of the Idaho Mountain Express.