Boise Valley Fly Fishers
 
 
Since 1971

 

CONSERVATION NEWS

News and information on BVFF conservation projects

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  • 21 May 2024 11:10 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    BVFF has been working on a gravel augmentation for the lower Owyhee river (below the Owyhee Dam) for several years. We started in November of 2021 by doing a study of the depth, water velocity and bottom structure that brown trout were using to spawn and then used that information to evaluate a proposed gravel augmentation location. Gravel augmentations are expensive endeavors, so we applied for a grant from FFI and ODFW to help pay for the project.

    Anytime you do work in a river, you are required to have a stream alteration permit from the Army Corps of Engineers as well as approval from the local department of water resources and permission from the landowner., which in this case is BLM. As we navigated the permitting process, we learned that we would need an engineering analysis to show the impact to the flood zone. It took some time, but we found an engineering firm that was willing to do the analysis and we raised the necessary funds through Idaho Gives and a club “Greenbacks for Redds” program.

    When we got back to the permitting process we found that the players at the different agencies had changed, so we had to start those discussions over. After numerous meetings we obtained all of the necessary signatures and were able to submit our Stream Alteration Permit to the Army Corps of Engineers. We expect the permit to be completed by August, at which time we will reapply for the ODFW grant (which expired) and if all goes well, we will do the gravel augmentation in late October, after the flows drop to winter levels.

    This gravel augmentation is 100 cubic yards, which is ten times larger than the ones we have done on the Boise River. But don’t worry, we’re not moving it by wheelbarrow! The day before, the gravel will get staged near the site and the Owyhee River Ranch has volunteered to use their front-end loader to transfer it into a gravel shooter/slinger which will throw it from the road into the river with the goal of laying down a 6 inch base of gravel through the run.


    We still have some planning work to do, including working with Malheur county on a traffic control plan and coordinating with Sunroc and the gravel shooter company, as well as volunteers to help on the day of the augmentation. We will post the event for volunteer signups once we have the permit and the date. If you are interested in helping with any of the remaining tasks, please reach out to us at conservation@bvff.com.

    Many thanks to those who contributed to Idaho Gives and bought Greenbacks. Inflation has increased the cost of the augmentation. If you want to help support it, consider buying a “Greenback” at the BVFF-Store. 

    Thanks to the Vale BLM office and ODFW fish biologists Dave Banks and Kirk Handley for their continued support on this project. And my thanks to Forrest Goodrum and Jon Fishback for their help on the initial grant proposal and budgeting on the project.

    For more background on the Owyhee gravel augmentation, see this previous conservation blog article., and you can see our stream alteration permit and drawings here.  


  • 21 May 2024 10:34 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    BVFF has submitted a stream alteration permit to the Army Corps of Engineers for a gravel augmentation project on the lower Owyhee River.  

    A copy of that permit can be found HERE. BVFFOregonJointPermitApplicationSignedLandownerApplicant.pdf

    A copy of the permit drawings can be found HERE. PermitDrawings.pdf

    An update on the gravel augmentation project will be posted on the Conservation Blog soon. A copy of the Permit Application Acceptance Email is below.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Corps Regulatory Permit Application Receipt, NWP-2024-237 (Boise Valley Fly Fishers Lower Owyhee Gravel Augmentation)

    Thu, May 2, 2024 at 4:35 PM

    From: White, Melody J CIV USARMY CENWP (USA)

    To:  "conservation@bvff.com" , "jblustain@blm.gov"
    cc: : "Holecek, Alexandra CIV USARMY CENWP (USA)"

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    Portland District
    Regulatory Branch
    Portland Permit Section
    Regulatory Permit Application Receipt
    Project Name: Boise Valley Fly Fishers Lower Owyhee Gravel Augmentation
    Corps Application ID Number: NWP-2024-237


    After preliminary evaluation of your application, we may contact you if additional information is required. Please refer to the Corps Application Identification (ID) Number above when you contact this office regarding your project/property.

    Please direct all inquiries and comments to the Project Manager listed below.

    Project Manager: Alex Holecek

    Melody White

    Portland Permits Section Chief Regulatory Branch
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Portland District
    333 S.W. First Avenue, P.O. Box 2946
    Portland, OR 97208-2946
    Phone: 503-808-4385 | Cell: 503-201-0797
    Melody.J.White@usace.army.mil

  • 03 Apr 2024 10:06 PM | Brian Martin (Administrator)

    Restoring Winter Flows to the Les Bois Side Channels

    By Troy Pearse, Conservation Committee Chairperson

    Conservation@BVFF.com

     In 2017, after extended high water flows from Snowmageddon runoff, BVFF anglers recognized that 2 side channels behind the old Les Bois racetrack at Expo Idaho no longer flowed during the winter. This was very concerning because the 2 side channels represented a mile of premium trout spawning and rearing habitat. In 2019, BVFF started talking with Idaho Fish and Game, and although they shared our concern, they said they needed concrete evidence that the side channels used to flow during the winter. In 2021 we found dated aerial photography that clearly shows both side channels used to flow during the winter, as shown in the figure below, which gave IDF&G the evidence they needed.


     

    In Spring of 2022, IDF&G put together a project team with key people from city, county and regulatory agencies and visited the site to discuss options for restoring winter flows. All parties were supportive of the project and suggestions from that meeting included monitoring the side channels during rewatering to observe how they flow and doing a test-dig at the head of the side channels to make sure the soils were solid enough to excavate without risking the river overtaking a side channel.

    Last Spring, BVFF monitored the side channels as river levels came up and documented that the upper side channel flows through with very little inflows, but the lower side channel has more high-spots that kept water from flowing until the main Boise River was higher. Given this information, the project team recommended focusing on restoring flows to the upper side channel first and then applying lessons learned to the lower side channel.

    One thing Zach Kirk, County Engineer from Ada County Development Services, noticed while we were documenting the side channel rewatering last year is there were some juvenile fish in the deeper pools that had survived the winter. We wanted to know more about the fish stranding in this disconnected side channel so last Fall, after flows dropped for the winter, IDF&G electro-fished the side channels and rescued trout that were stranded in the disconnected pools. Over the following winter, BVFF monitored two of these stranding pools and found that the water levels were relatively stable, and that dace and shiners (minnows) were able to survive the winter. This means the pools were connected to groundwater which was able to keep adequate oxygen levels for fish to survive, which is an important learning that stranding does not necessarily mean mortality if the pools are connected to groundwater. It also helps if the pools have some depth and enough woody-cover for the fish to avoid predation from birds like mergansers and herons. The location of the stranding pool study is shown on the aerial photo above and the photos below show the stranding pool levels last November and this March.


    Getting permits to work in the river is expensive and takes time. This Fall the Flood District obtained the permits needed to dig the side channel entry test-pits and we were able to get good data on substrate and depth-to-groundwater that will help with modeling and plans for excavating the side channels. Here is the new Flood District Manager, Mark Zirschky, monitoring the test-dig at the top of the upper Les Bois side channel. The flood district is interested in helping this project both because they are great partners who want to help improve trout habitat and because they recognize that when side channels like this lose their carrying capacity the overall flood risk on the river increases.

    This year, BVFF volunteers again monitored the side channels as flows on the Boise River increased and rewatered the side channels. We gathered cross-sectional depths and flows to document where water will go once the side channel entry is excavated, which will help guide the river restoration work and possible trout habitat improvements such as adding spawning gravel or woody cover. We also documented where the river crossed the first high-spot in the lower side channel, to help guide the excavation at that location. Here is the BVFF crew (Klaus Kissman, Jeff Jones, Tim Opp and Mike Stahl) taking measurements at the entry to the upper Les Bois side channel. Meanwhile George Butts was in the lower side channel photo-documenting the water as it crossed the first high spot.


    Side channels are important for trout spawning and rearing. They tend to have more spawning size gravels available as well as better woody-cover which improves fry survival. IDF&G does a yearly fry survey on the Lower Boise River and they find 7 – 10 times the fry density in side channels as they do in the main river, which reinforces how important side channels are to the trout population. Restoring side channels is one of the best ways to improve the trout population, but it is a difficult undertaking, and it couldn’t happen without cooperation and leadership from multiple agencies. BVFF is very excited to be a part of this project team and would like to thank Idaho Fish and Game for their leadership; Flood District 10 for their efforts to lead the excavation work; and the City of Boise for helping fund the river modeling necessary to do this complicated project. If all goes well, we could see the upper side channel excavation this upcoming winter!


  • 03 Apr 2024 9:56 PM | Brian Martin (Administrator)

    Conservation Corner

    by Troy Pearse, Conservation Committee Chairperson

    Conservation@BVFF.com

    The last few years, BVFF has been working at the Diane Moore Nature Center. It has been a great match for our club mission of fly fishing access, education, and conservation--and the more time our members spend there, the more they love it.

    The 2 ½ mile section of river between the New York Canal Diversion Dam and Barber Dam is different from the rest of the river. Much of it resides in the Barber Pool, which is a wildlife preserve on the outskirts of the City of Boise with very little public access. And while IDF&G regularly stocks 30,000 trout a year on the Boise River below Barber Park, they rarely stock the river above that. But even though the river hasn't been stocked, 

    rainbow trout and whitefish have established a wild population that is doing well, and with the recent side channel restoration and trout habitat improvements at the Diane Moore Nature Center the wild trout population should continue to improve.

    Every few years Idaho Fish and Game asks the public for input on their fishing regulations and fisheries management plan. Initially the club wanted to propose that IDF&G manage the reach for trophy-sized wild trout, which means… (Pick up reading here) that any trout under 20" would need to be released. However, after talking with IDFG fish biologists Art Butts and Tim D'Amico we learned that they did not think changing the regulations would meet the trophy trout size goals (and therefore IDFG wouldn't be willing to change them). Based on their feedback the club decided to focus on wild trout management in this section and proposed that the section of river have a reduced bag limit and be closed for spawning season.

    The club conducted an angler survey to see if local anglers supported regulation changes for this stretch of river. We got a good number of responses from fly, lure and bait anglers with 94% of them supporting regulation changes. For more details, see this article on our Conservation Blog HERE.

  • 17 Mar 2024 7:34 PM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    The Owyhee drainage has had two great back-to-back snow years. Last year the reservoir was so low that it didn't fill, but this year is a different story. We had great carry-over in the reservoir and with all of the snow this season the reservoir is going to over-fill, which means the lower Owyhee river will get some much needed flushing flows.   Flushing flows are particularly important on the Owyhee because over time fine sediments have accumulated from dry side channel blowouts, which is hurting the bug habitat and trout spawning habitat. Figure-1 below shows the reservoir levels and you can see how much more water we have this year compared to last. 


    The Owyhee Irrigation District has started ramping up flows and many are wondering how high they will go, and how long they will be too high to fish. To make an educated guess, let's take a look at the reservoir carryover, snowpack and flows from 2017 and 2019, which were the last 2 high water years.

    Here is the snowpack graph for the upper Owyhee drainage.  (You can click on any graph to get a full-size version.)

    • The snowpack this year is one of the highest on record (black-line), and is well above the snowpacks from 2017 and 2019 (yellow and green lines).
    • The snowpack in 2023 (purple line) was impressive. We had a cool wet spring and the snow continued to accumulate in the mountains.
    • 2022 had a meger snowpack and is shown in dark green for comparison.


    Although the reservoir didn't fill last year,  it did come up 31 feet between mid-March and the end of June.  Right now the reservoir is 13 feet from full, and the snowpack potential for this year is very similar to last year, which means there could be an 18 extra feet of water to spill!  (Note: Reservoir fill rates aren't linear, so this isn't exactly accurate...but you get the point. There is a lot of extra water up in dem der hills! ) 

    Comparing the current Owyhee reservoir level to 2017 and 2019 (the last 2 times we had high flows), you can see that the reservoir elevation this year is similar to 2017, and our runoff this year hasn't even started.  


    Given that the Upper Owyhee drainage has significantly more snow this year than it did back in 2017, I would expect we will see flows at or above what was released in 2017.  Here is a look at spring flows from 2017, 2019, 2023 and so far in 2024. Hold onto your hats, I think we have some high water coming soon!


    Don't worry about the fish getting blown downriver.  Unlike the Boise River which stays in bank until 7,000cfs and gets high river velocities, the Owyhee jumps out of bank around 2,000cfs, spreads out and the river velocity don't increase as much so trout have plenty of places to get out of the flow in the willows.

    When the river comes down, fishing will be even better than before. The bug hatches will improve, and I expect we will have some crappie in the river to chase as well. There is no way to tell, but I think the high water might also help clean out the Saprolegnia fungus that has been infecting brown trout after they spawn. Keep yer fingers crossed!

    As the reservoir gets close to filling they divert some water through the Dam Ring Gate Spillway, which locals call the "Glory Hole". If you haven't seen it, it's worth taking a drive up to see. Here is a little more info about it.  


  • 13 Mar 2024 7:48 PM | Brian Martin (Administrator)


    On March 9, the BOD and Officers submitted to IDFG a proposed fishing regulation change that impacts the Boise River reach from the Diversion Dam below Lucky Peak Reservoir downriver to the Barber Dam.

    This unique section of the main Boise River holds both wild rainbow trout and whitefish and is not regularly stocked with hatchery fish. We are excited to be involved in the conservation of this fishery for anglers of all types.


    Here are links to the Wild Trout Proposal and the BVFF Angler Survey:

    BVFFWildTroutProposalToIDFG.pdf

    BVFFAnglerSurvey.xlsx

  • 26 Jan 2024 9:26 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    BVFF’s Redd Count and Mapping project wrapped up at the end of December. The club did 7 day-floats from Willow Lane (in mid-Garden City) down to Star to count and mark redds. Thanks to Johnny Rogers, George Butts, Jeff Jones and Klaus Kissman for their help. We delivered a few updates to the Flood District’s Redd-Map as well as discussed the possibility of repurposing a few downed trees into side channels for trout habitat.  We are grateful to have such great partners who care about protecting and improving trout habitat in the Boise River.

    Figure-1 shows a high level map of the larger redd-zones we are tracking on the Boise River.  For more details about BVFF’s “Redd Protection Program” with the Flood District, see this conservation blog article

    Figure-1


    One thing I was looking for this year was how much new gravel the high spring flows stirred up. From what we observed, new gravel recruited from last spring’s high water was primarily deposited at “high water locations”, which are out of the water during the low flows of winter and unavailable for brown trout to spawn in November and December, but, this gravel will be available for rainbow trout to spawn when the flows come back up in the spring.  We did see some changes to the river from high water which impacted brown trout spawning, including:

    • Behind Lake Harbor a new gravel bar popped up in the middle of the river and the brown trout found it!

    • A large spawning area behind Expo Idaho experienced shifts in a gravel-flat which impacted water depth and velocity—reducing the number of redds there this year;

    • A 200-foot-long gravel island above Glenwood Bridge that used to have brown trout redds washed away and didn’t have any redds this year, but…there was new gravel accumulation nearby that did;

    • Below Glenwood Bridge a run-riffle-run that had redds in the tail-out between them is now a single long run with no redds.

    • The entry to New Dry Creek diversion was dewatered for a repair, which made a redd-zone unavailable this year. But the good news is once the project is complete there will be some “leftover gravel” there that brown trout will be able to use next year.

    • In the side channel where BVFF did our gravel augmentation last year, most of our gravel was moved to the lower half of the side channel and left at higher water locations that are out of the water now but will be available to rainbow trout in the spring. The number of brown trout redds in the side channel was down this year as gravel in one redd-zone was washed away.


    Although there were changes to the river from high-water, the majority of the larger redd zones were active this year with an increase in the number of smaller spawning sites that just had 1 or 2 redds (which are not on this map). Overall we saw slightly fewer redds this year but we know that there was some late spawning this year and and it is possible that we missed some redds that were in new locations. And, as described above, there were some changes to several of the larger redd-zones in the main channel this year that resulted in fewer redds at those sites. I also feel like we are getting more accurate at our redd counts and avoiding some areas of current-scour that we may have mistakenly counted as a redd in previous years.    

    Below Glenwood bridge the Boise river splits into 2 channels that flow around Eagle Island, as shown in the photo below. The north channel has many more small twists and turns than the south channel, which causes the river to drop more gravel and improves trout spawning habitat there, resulting in more spawning activity (which you can see by how many redd-zones the north channel has on the map). The amount of water entering the north channel varies from year-to-year depending on cobble accumulations at the head of Eagle Island. Table-2 shows the flows in November of 2022 vs 2023 and you can see how the north channel got more water this year, which made more spawning habitat available to the brown trout and is likely the reason we saw more spawning activity in the north channel this year. Brown trout are known to migrate to find spawning habitat and based on the redd counts the last 2 years it looks like some of them may have decided to spawn in the north channel this year because of the favorable conditions.



    Many of the brown trout redds on the Boise River are close to the bank where the river has recruited gravel, like the redds shown in the photo below. Because of this, water flows are a big factor in what bankside spawning habitat is available to brown trout in the winter.  Low winter flows dewater some side channels and as water levels go down the river recedes from the banks where much of the spawning gravels are located.

    In the 1980s and 90s, Idaho Fish and Game worked to establish minimum winter flows in the Boise River which significantly improved the wild trout populations because it brought water levels up and improved access to trout spawning and rearing habitat. When we have good reservoir carryover conditions (like this winter) the Boise river typically runs around 270cfs - 280cfs at the Glenwood Bridge gauge during the winter but in drought years that drops to around 210cfs or even lower, which dewaters the banks more. IDFG has some water rights in Lucky Peak and has been investigating increasing the minimum winter flows to 300cfs to improve trout spawning and over-wintering habitat which would be a great improvement for the wild trout on the Boise river and I would love to see it happen—even if it only happened on years when we have a good reservoir carryover.

  • 26 Nov 2023 9:28 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    Last week I got the opportunity to help Tim D’Amico, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologist, with a trout fry (electro-fishing) survey on the Boise River side channel where BVFF has been working on trout habitat improvements (see this Conservation Blog article for details). We surveyed the same 3 spots as last year--one at the top, one mid-channel and one in the lower section. The total fry numbers were down compared to last year, but that was mainly because the tree across the channel at the lower site where we had found so many trout fry last year had pushed downstream and we only found a couple of trout in that zone. The fisheries biologist said that was one of the limitations of their fry survey--that changes to the river can impact the productivity of a sample site. (See this Conservation Blog article for more information about last year's fry survey.)

    One of the habitat improvements we did on the side channel last February was to place a tree root-wad in the upper section, with the assistance of the flood district’s excavator. This year’s high runoff flows scoured out a good hole there and we found both fry and 1–2-year-old brown and rainbow trout holding around the root-wad. Seeing the age 1-2 trout is extremely exciting because it is a good indicator that our side channel habitat improvements are helping trout over-winter survival, which IDFG tells us is the bottleneck for improving recruitment from fry into adulthood.



    I passed along photos and kudos to the flood district and will be working with the new flood district manager, Mark Zirschky, to identify other downed trees that can be possibly be repurposed/placed in other locations to improve trout habitat during their winter operations. This opportunity to improve woody cover in the Boise River is extremely important and I am grateful for their forward thinking and willingness to help protect and improve trout habitat in the Boise River. (See this Conservation Blog article for more information on this awesome project!)

    I had been concerned that the high flows from the early release of water in April would be a problem because it occurred so close to brown trout fry-out (when the fry leave their redd/nest), but we found lots of brown trout fry indicating that the side channel and woody cover was a good place of refuge from the high flows. So far, I haven't seen any brown trout redds in our side channel this Fall, but I have seen some in the main river. During the survey we found one large (20") brown trout at the end of the side channel, who appears to be staged to spawn. Last year most of the spawning in the side channel happened in December, so I am hopeful we will see some redds soon.

    BVFF will start floating the Boise river this week to document brown trout spawning and update the redd-zone map for the flood district so they can avoid the redds during their winter maintenance. The high spring flows recruited new gravel from the river-banks and it will be very interesting to see where we find brown trout spawning this year.

    In December I will be participating in a trout fry survey at the Diane Moore Nature Center side channel (the same place we did our snorkel survey this summer). Flows are down significantly in that side channel, but there are some deep pools and lots of woody cover. The total number of trout fry we saw in that side channel last summer was amazing, and there is lots of good woody cover for them, so I expect we will see an increase in the adult population of trout there over the next few years. For more information about this successful side channel restoration, see this Conservation Blog article.

  • 30 Oct 2023 4:05 PM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    REDD NOVEMBER

    November is peak spawning time for Brown Trout on the Owyhee and Boise River. Please watch for redds as you wade and avoid walking through them. Browns like to build their redds in 1-3 feet of slower moving water and love tail-outs and next to gravel banks. Here is a look at brown trout redds on the Boise River and a short YouTube video on how to spot redds when you are wading.

    The high water on the Boise this spring moved a lot of gravel and we expect to see Browns spawning throughout the river this Fall! If you are interested in participating in a Boise River Redd Mapping float later in November and December, please reach out to Troy Pearse at conservation@bvff.com. Volunteers should have good rowing skills as the water is skinny and there are downed trees to contend with.  Float days will depend on weather conditions as we need sunny weather to see the redds.

    OWYHEE GRAVEL AUGMENTATION

    We have hired HDR Engineering in Boise to help us with the Floodplain Development Plan that Malheur County Planning and Zoning is requiring. We met with them last month and have a path forward—it will just take some time to calculate the hydrological impacts of adding the gravel. Many thanks to those who bought $Greenbacks to help fund this augmentation. If all goes well we will be adding gravel this Spring!

    BOISE RIVER SIDE CHANNEL RESTORATION

    BVFF has been working with IDFG on restoring year-round flows to two side channels behind Expo Idaho that were closed off by the high runoff from Snowmageddon. IDFG is leading the effort and is getting great support from local city and permitting agencies. This fall IDFG monitored the side-channel as it dewatered and confirmed that trout fry are getting stranded. They did a “fry rescue” in a couple of pools and plan to monitor other pools to see if the fry make it through the winter or not. BVFF will be assisting by helping monitor and measure water in those side channels over the winter.

    BOISE RIVER CLEANUP

    Earlier this month, a group of volunteers from BVFF and WFFI did a river cleanup at our Side Channel Gravel Augmentation site. The group wadered-up and pulled trash out of the river as well as cleaning up the river banks.


    A BIG THANK YOU! to those who volunteered: Elizabeth Pollard, Lisa Sventes, Jose DeSousa, Barbara Emerich, Wayne Frederick, Brian Martin, Frank Jenks, Doug Olds, Mike Stahl, Matt Housel, George Butts, Jack Truschel, Ray Arguerllo, Tim DeMarco, Barbara Wagner, Mary Black, Wanda Shearer, Brenda Schwartz, Jane Mc Kevitt, Mallory Wilson, Karen Shein, Serrita Beauleu, Joe Schwartz, John Bourne. And THANK YOU! to Johnny Rogers for his efforts to coordinate and lead the cleanup. 

  • 30 Sep 2023 4:29 PM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    Side channel habitat is one of the most important factors for a healthy wild trout population. They provide good spawning habitat for adult trout and more importantly good rearing habitat for young trout—the reduced flows in the side channel are much easier for the young trout to handle than the main river and the side channel’s extra bankside woody-cover gives young trout a place to hide from birds and other predators. Side channels that flow year-round are the most important because they provide shelter during the winter which is critical for young trout to survive into adulthood.

    The Boise River through town is an urban tailwater river which over time has reduced its side channel habitat and has become a limiting factor for wild trout reproduction. Idaho Fish and Game does trout fry surveys in the Fall that show the Boise River has a healthy population of wild rainbow and brown trout. And their surveys show that trout fry populations are 7-10 times higher in the side channels than the main river. Unfortunately, there are very few side channels on the Boise River that flow in the winter.


    A SUCCESSFUL SIDE CHANNEL RESTORATION

    Two years ago the Intermountain Bird Observatory led a Boise River side channel restoration project at the Diane Moore Nature Center, which is located a couple of miles downstream of Lucky Peak Dam—above Barber Dam. The side channel was engineered to provide good habitat for fish and wildlife including plenty of woody cover for small fish to seek shelter.


    BVFF got involved in the Diane Moore Nature Center side channel project in 2022 and helped design and install Trout Habitat signs along the side channel, followed by building an Angler Access at the site. BVFF has been thrilled to be involved in this project because it supports all three of our mission goals: Fly Fishing Conservation, Access, and Education.


    The first spring the side channel had water (2022) there was limited trout spawning observed, likely because Boise River flows came up late. And in the second season (2023) we had high spring flows making it impossible to see if trout were spawning there. This summer while walking the side channel we saw small “minnow-sized” fish but were not able to identify them. So, we decided to stick our heads underwater to see what we would find! Our goal was to see how trout are using the new side channel and get an idea on numbers and distribution.


    A snorkel survey is a standard way to count trout fry. We talked with Tracy Hillman, Senior Ecologist at BioAnalysts who specializes in trout habitat restoration, and he talked us through the process and gave us a great document on how to do a snorkel survey. August 29th, volunteers from Boise Valley Fly Fishers (Troy Pearse, Klaus Kissman and Dennis Moore) did a fry snorkel survey in the new side channel at the Diane Moore Nature Center. Even though it was summer, we wriggled into wetsuits to protect us from the extended cold-water exposure and debris in the water. We started at the bottom and had 2 people snorkel upstream side-by-side counting the fish they saw. This was our first snorkel survey and we didn’t know what to expect, but we were flabbergasted when we went underwater and started seeing rainbow trout fry everywhere! The side channel is about 0.4 miles long and we snorkeled sections from the bottom to the top—covering about 3/4 of the total length—counting over 2,000 trout fry which were evenly distributed throughout the side channel!

    A large part of the success of this side channel is the extra effort made to add woody-cover: There are numerous downed trees and log-piles in the side channel which give the trout fry a good place to seek shelter. Observing the trout fry underwater was a great way to see this as many of the fry were tucked under pieces of wood in the water with some large pods of trout fry by logjams.

    The vast majority of trout in this stretch of water are wild, as Idaho Fish and Game does not actively stock this section of river. We are excited about the potential of the side channel to increase the population of wild rainbow trout in this section of the Boise River, which is isolated between two dams: Barber Dam below and the New York Canal Diversion Dam above.

    The side channel has restricted inflows in the winter but talking with Greg Kalteneker (who lead the side channel project), the side channel was designed to connect with groundwater and last winter the water station installed on the side channel showed it flowed at 1cfs - 3cfs. Hopefully that will be enough inflow to keep it from freezing. We plan to check it a few times this winter to see how it is flowing and if it is icing over.


    IDFG Historical Fish Stocking Records


    A SIDE CHANNEL OPPORTUNITY

    As good as the trout population is on the Boise River, it is not reaching its full potential. One of the best things we can do for the Boise River wild trout population is increase the number of side channels that have year-round flow for trout spawning and rearing. BVFF is working with Idaho Fish and Game to restore winter flows to two side channels behind Expo Idaho that were cut-off from winter flows after Snowmageddon in 2017. Idaho Fish and Game will be on-site at these side channels this Fall when Boise Rivers flows drop. They will be documenting the side channel dewatering and evaluating possible trout-fry stranding, including possibly rescuing stranded trout fry and moving them to the main river. BVFF is volunteering to assist them. Stay tuned for more details and sign up if you are interested. The current estimate for flow-reductions on the Boise river is the morning of Monday October 15th, but that time could change.


    UPDATE 10/5/2023: The Boise River dropped earlier than expected. IDFG sampled the side channels and identified several pools with stranded trout fry and thousands of minnows.  They electrofished a couple of pools and rescued several dozen trout fry. We will help them monitor the pools over the winter to see if they ice-over and IDFG may electrofish them in the spring to evaluate overwinter survival.   




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