Eastern Idaho anglers, hoping to see an extension to the fishing season at Henry’s Lake, were granted their wish by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission which considered the proposal this week at its meeting in Lewiston.
The commission considered two plans: Plan A is to extend the fishing season year-round with a catch-and-release season from Feb. 15 to the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Plan B is to extend the harvest season moving the closing date to Jan. 31 and have a catch-and-release season from Feb. 1 through May 10, then close all fishing from May 11 to the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.
The commission chose plan A.
“We had some sound biological support for increasing opportunity at Henry’s Lake,” said Brett High, fisheries manager for the Upper Snake Region. “We feel like we have a very solid stance there. It can stand a lot more angler harvest and fishing pressure.”
Previously, the season ended Jan. 1 and reopened on Memorial Day weekend.
High said the new season for Henry’s Lake should have the effect of benefiting ice anglers, but more so open-water anglers.
“The way the ice fishing works at Henry’s Lake, is the fishing is good early but it slows quickly,” High said. “Usually by the end of December the catch rates are so low that people don’t go there to fish. … The big benefit is going to probably be to open-water anglers at having a consistent opportunity every year to fish the lake when the ice comes off.”
High said with the changing climate, ice off has been coming earlier in recent years.
“One of our concerns from a fisheries performance standpoint is opening day can be pretty great if ice comes off within the two weeks before, but if it’s farther than two weeks before Memorial weekend that usually spells poor catch rates for that opener,” he said.
With the new season changes, the opportunity to fish during ice off will always be there.
High said ice fishing slows down when the dissolved oxygen levels of the lake drop, usually by January. Low dissolved oxygen levels slows the fish’s metabolism and causes them to not actively feed. “They don’t bite much and angling suffers because of that,” he said. “When ice comes off, oxygen goes up and the fish get active and ready to spawn and they’re actively feeding. That’s a good time to fish.”
Henry’s Lake is known as a trophy fishery. The trout populations at Henry’s Lake (Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brook trout, and cutthroat-rainbow trout hybrids) meet or exceed fishery management goals for abundance and catch rates and most of the goals for fish size, Fish and Game said. Bag limit is two trout.
Fish and Game earlier this year sent out an email survey to more than 36,000 resident anglers, with about half residing in the Upper Snake Region, to determine which option anglers preferred for Henry’s Lake. It received 3,910 responses — 2,417 replies were from eastern Idaho residents, 1,493 were from other locations.
“Overall, 84% of respondents favored increasing fishing opportunity at Henry’s Lake, with 58% favoring option A and 26% favoring Option B,” said James Brower in a statement on the survey.