Drought heat and fishing – AG WEST INFORMATION NETWORK
Drought heat and fishing
Fish handlers face tough choices when high heat threatens fish.
Biologists strive to provide as many fishing opportunities knowing that extreme conditions can work against them
Idaho Fish and Game launched the first 2021 Fish Rescue Order in mid-June due to low water, which is earlier than usual and signals new challenges as the summer progresses. With drought in some areas and near record high temperatures statewide in late June, conditions can become dangerous for fish.
“Fish retrieval is common in Idaho, but it’s about two months earlier than normal, so it’s shaping up to be a bad year,” said Joe Kozfkay, director of fisheries for Fish and Game State.
Fisheries managers monitor these situations closely and know what action to take. These decisions are not taken lightly and can be controversial in the “heat of the moment,” but biologists have the experience and the scientific research to guide them.
If there is a reservoir, lake or pond that is intended to be emptied by the end of summer or become uninhabitable for fishing, a fishery manager has limited options: to trap and move the fish. , offer a salvage fishery, do nothing, or a combination of the two.
“Fishermen may think we are reluctant to trap and move fish, but under the right circumstances the opposite is true,” Kozfkay said. “Our staff will work hard to provide and maintain fishing opportunities, and sometimes saving stranded fish is a good use of resources.”
Fish and Game strives to provide as many fishing opportunities as possible while making good use of the money provided by fishermen’s license fees. Biologists are hedging their bets by putting the most resources in the places most likely to have a reliable water supply and abundant fish.
To save or recover
Overall, Idaho’s fish are resilient, and depending on the severity of the situation, populations may not be affected or rebound quickly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially when reservoirs and ponds drain so low, or get so hot, that they no longer support preferred fish species.
The decision to trap and relocate the fish is based on two questions. First, can fish be caught and transported effectively and efficiently? Various factors are taken into account in answering this question, such as accessibility, whether the fish are too stressed to be caught, transported and transplanted safely, and whether there are competing work demands, or other factors.
The second question: Would displaced fish significantly improve fishing in the receiving waters? Managers often have to decide if there is a real need for more fish, such as juveniles, in the receiving water. There may be pressure from fishermen to “save” all fish, even though those fish may offer little or no benefit in the water in which they are placed.
“We are faced with a cost / benefit decision, and there may be other projects that offer more benefits,” Kozfkay said. “But we also realize that it can be difficult for anglers to understand when their favorite fishing spot is under threat.”
Unfortunately, allowing salvage fishing may be a better alternative in some cases, even knowing that fish that fishermen do not harvest may die.