Fewer fish should improve fishing at Henry’s

Fewer fish should make for better fishing at Henry’s Lake when it opens Saturday.

As counter-intuitive as that sounds, Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists say recent stocking reductions are returning the famed lake to its glory days.

“Our program is working,” said Dan Garren, Fish and Game’s fisheries manager in the Upper Snake Region. “Fish are definitely getting bigger. The science is clear. They are responding to our management in a positive way.”

To best understand the issue, it is important to acknowledge anglers want big fish when they travel to Henry’s Lake. Plentiful fish is nice, but huge trout is the true attraction.

For some folks, that attraction has dimmed in recent years because the size of Henry’s trout had fallen. The days of the bruisers seemed over.

Enter Garren and the lake’s stocking regiment.

Working under the theory the department was stocking too many fish, Garren slashed stocking. Garren’s premise was simple: There were too many fish in the lake and those fish were competing for a limited food supply, which slowed the growth of all the fish in the lake.

In each of the last three years, Fish and Game stocked only 750,000 cutthroat fingerlings. That was down from as many as 2.4 million cutthroat fingerlings stocked annually in the 1980s and down from 1.3 million stocked yearly over the past 10 years.

With fewer fish to eat the lake’s limited food supply, the remaining trout are growing larger by getting more to eat, Garren said.

Garren said there are roughly 15 percent fewer trout in the lake this year from last year. The number of trout is still 30 percent higher than the department’s long-term goal, but the overall population is shrinking.

And as the population shrinks, the size of the fish is improving.

Fish and Game tracks the weight of fish — a measurement akin to a body mass index in people. The goal is for the fish is to have a number higher than 100. Earlier in the decade, the number had dropped as low as 84 for cutthroat trout.

This spring’s surveys found cutthroat scored 91, while hybrids scored 98 and brook trout scored 95. All of the weight numbers are up from the previous five years.

Garren is thrilled with the trends.

“We are making a positive change,” he said. “We are influencing the population in a way that should please anglers.”

The upshot for Saturday’s opener?

Garren said the population is still 30 percent above the long-term average and the fish are bigger than five years ago. That means Saturday — weather permitting — should be good.

“The fishing this weekend should be fantastic,” he said.

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If you want to talk to biologists about fishing in Idaho, today is the day.

Fish and Game fisheries biologists are hosting a web chat today from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Biologists and other fishing experts will be online, ready to answer questions about anything about fishing in the Gem State.

Fisheries manager Dave Parrish will host the chat and will be joined by numerous biologists who can answer almost any question you might have.

To join the discussion, go to tinyurl.com/fg-fish-chat.

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Fish and Game’s wolverine conservation plan is open for review.

The wolverine is a member of the weasel family that occupies high-elevation alpine and subalpine habitats where cold, snowy conditions exist for much of the year.

The proposed plan is available at tinyurl.com/fg-wolverine.

The public comment period ends June 9.

Fish and Game will host a live, online chat about wolverines from noon to 2 p.m. June 3.

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Fish and Game is closely tracking this year’s salmon run as Chinook salmon pass through several dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Early forecasts predicted a good year for Chinook returns, and so far, those returns have been coming in as expected.

For the latest information fo to www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cY8-kJ13QY.

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The Caribou-Targhee National Forest is warning campers and travelers to be wary on the forest this weekend.

Officials said the money available to maintain forest roads is less than previous years, according to a press release. Officials are asking travelers to be careful not to drive on muddy roads.

In addition to road conditions, Forest Service officials pointed out Monday that a number of campgrounds will be open, if only partially.

According to the press release, the following campgrounds will be open:

n Stoddard Creek and Steel Creek on the Dubois Ranger District.

n Grandview, Warm River, Riverside (for fishermen’s access only), McCrea Bridge, Buttermilk (a few loops) and Buffalo (a few loops) on the Ashton/Island Park Ranger District.

n Pine Creek & Mike Harris campgrounds will be half open on the Teton-Basin Ranger District.

Campground reservation can be made by calling the toll-free number 1-877-444-6777 or by visiting www.recreation.gov.

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Although most of the rivers in the region have been open for months, this weekend is seen as the traditional fishing opener for the region’s rivers.

With that in mind, here are some resources to make informed decisions about where to go in the coming days:

N The best collection of river flow data is at waterdistrict1.com.

n Fish and Game has started a new bulletin board to talk about fishing hot spots. It is at tinyurl.com/id-fishtalk.

n Locally, two fly shops run good fishing reports. They are jimmysflyshop.com and henrysforkanglers.com.

n If you aren’t into fly-fishing, a good report is at www.bigfishtackle.com. Search under forums to find Idaho.

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