COEUR d'ALENE - Idaho Fish and Game is proposing changes to Idaho fishing rules, and now is the time for the public to review and comment.
The new regulations aim to restore a limited kokanee fishery and rein in trout harvest, officials say.
"We've come a very long way in the past six years," said Regional Fishery Manager Jim Fredericks, of trout-fishing suppression. "We are now at a point where we can start to rebuild the trophy rainbow trout fishery and provide limited kokanee harvest."
Rule tweaks for Panhandle region fishing include forbidden harvest of any trout with a red or orange slash under the jaw in the Spokane River drainage, or the Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe rivers and tributaries.
Currently, rainbow and cutthroat hybrid trout can be bagged from the drainages.
"The change will reduce harvest opportunity for hybrid trout, but more effectively protect cutthroat trout," reads the Fish and Game website.
The agency is also proposing to reduce the kokanee catch limit in Priest and Upper Priest lakes from 15 to six.
Anglers could harvest kokanee again in Lake Pend Oreille, with a six-fish limit. Trout harvest there would have a new six-catch limit, with only one fish allowed over 20 inches. Fishermen could not possess rainbow trout with heads removed.
Rainbow trout harvest would also be closed from December through late May at the Clark Fork River and tributaries. Anglers could harvest six kokanee a day there, as opposed to none now, and couldn't possess rainbow trout heads.
Fish and Game is also proposing to shift new fishing rules to a three-year cycle, instead of the usual every-other-year routine.
"People get frustrated by continually changing rules," Fredericks said.
To view all the proposed rules for Idaho regions, go to: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.
Any proposed rules that are adopted will take effect Jan. 1.
The agency is also seeking comment on the Draft 2013-2018 Fisheries Management Plan, a two-part document proposing management direction for the next six years.
Part 1 proposes statewide fisheries programs, management policies, and challenges. Part 2 focuses on specific fishery management programs in drainages.
Management discussion for the Panhandle has centered on Priest and Upper Priest lakes.
Public opinion has varied on the possibility of allowing lake trout harvest throughout the system, Fredericks said, or trying to restore native fish with large-scale suppression.
"People were divided almost right down the middle," he said.
Priest Lake is currently managed as a lake trout fishery. Upper Priest Lake restricts lake trout harvest to maintain native bull trout and cutthroat populations.
The department will collect data about the Priest Lake fish populations during the 2013-2018 planning period, then consult with stakeholders to decide on long-term management.
The proposed Fisheries Management Plan can also be viewed at the Fish and Game website, or can be obtained by contacting fishery biologists at the Panhandle Regional office in Coeur d'Alene.
Folks can comment on the rule changes or management plan in several ways:
Contact Fredericks at 769-1414; or at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail at IDFG, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave., Coeur d'Alene, ID 83815.
Submit comments online at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.
Visit an open house at the Panhandle Regional Office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave. in Coeur d'Alene, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 27. Or make an appointment.
Input on the plan and proposed rule changes will be accepted through Sept. 30.