This spring’s high water delayed two projects to improve fishing access, but the Idaho Department of Fish and Game tackled another one this week.
Postponed until fall are a project to improve the failing concrete Lava Point boat ramp on the west side of Magic Reservoir, and another to add six floating docks, replace an outhouse and construct an ADA-compliant sidewalk at Mormon Reservoir.
The water is just too high for crews to do the work, said Doug Megargle, Fish and Game’s regional fishery manager.
But on Monday, a couple of Fish and Game employees started tearing out parts of the handicapped-accessible fishing pier at Oster Pond 1 in the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area.
“It’s a heavy-used dock. It’s always busy,” Dean Grissom, Fish and Game’s recreation site maintenance foreman, said Monday morning as he loaded equipment he’d need for the job.
He hoped gloomy weather might thin the crowd of anglers who would be upset to see a closed-for-construction sign.
Why the popularity? Anglers can park right beside that Oster 1 fishing pier — one of two handicapped-accessible piers in the Hagerman WMA — and the pond gets frequent stocking with trout. So it functions like an urban fishery and attracts anglers of all ages, Megargle said — many from Twin Falls, and some who travel from Boise to fish that pond and the dozen others on the WMA.
Grissom and Hagerman WMA manager Brandon Tycz are collaborating on the project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates an adjacent hatchery. If weather permits, Grissom and others planned to spend much of this week rebuilding the Oster 1 fishing pier’s floor and railings. They’re also reinforcing the main structure below to accommodate more closely spaced anchors for the decking.
Labor and materials, Grissom figured, might total $10,000 to $12,000.
The pier is more than 20 years old, he said. “We expect it to last at least 20 more.”
Elsewhere in the Hagerman WMA, Fish and Game biologist Scott Stanton has a nastier job: figuring out why common carp are swimming in the West Highway Pond.
In what was supposed to be a closing battle of Fish and Game’s war on carp in the Hagerman WMA, it treated the pond west of U.S. 30 with the fish-killing chemical rotenone in 2015, then restocked the pond with bass and bluegill.
Last August, a couple of anglers reported the heartbreaking news: Carp were back in the West Highway Pond. A conservation officer confirmed that.
“Obviously, we either did not get all the carp when we treated it with rotenone or we had carp come in from another source,” Stanton said.
That question makes all the difference in determining what to do next.
So Stanton’s team this spring started taking water temperatures at various depths to build a thermal profile of the whole pond — hoping that could provide clues to any cold-water springs where carp might have taken refuge during the rotenone treatment. They’re also asking adjacent landowners about any other water coming into the West Highway Pond that could be a carp refuge.
Stanton’s sleuthing includes investigating whether the pond has carp younger than 2 years old, because post-rotenone spawning would point more strongly to survival than to reintroduction.
“We were out last week trying to collect ages,” he said Monday. That means taking the dorsal spines of carp, to be dissected in a lab. “It’s a bloody job.”
This isn’t the Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir we’re used to.
The last Saturday in April, my husband and I paddled our tandem kayak down Salmon Falls Creek from the U.S. 93 rest area just south of Jackpot, Nev., to the reservoir’s Backwaters Recreation Site.
For a few hours, we did what we expected to: paddling like mad to keep out of the willows and shrubs that line the bank as the current propelled us through a relentless series of serpentine turns.
Then something happened to that narrow, winding creek. It turned into a placid lake as wide as the canyon. We paddled leisurely among the tips of submerged willows and even passed a motorized fishing boat — long before we reached what is normally the reservoir’s backwaters.
For us, high water in Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir means a shorter workout on tandem turns. But some, I realize, may be thinking more about fish populations.
“Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir is as full as it’s been since the early ‘80s. The spillway is flowing for only the second time in the dam’s 106-year history,” Fish and Game’s Magic Valley office posted this week, sharing photos and video of the water. “It was pretty awesome. This means good things for perch recruitment, which means good things for walleye forage.”
It’s a strange spring.
With so much public land flooding or still under snow, announcements about forest road closures have been pouring into my inbox. The Sawtooth National Forest is preparing a list of campgrounds that can open for Memorial Day and warning campers to have a Plan B in case their favorites aren’t on the list.
At Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, snow and ice still make Beauty and Boy Scout caves too hazardous to open. The monument opened Indian Tunnel, Dewdrop and Buffalo caves — by permit only — but is warning visitors they still contain snow and ice.
A Fish and Game officer on Wednesday posted the status of fishing spots on the north side of the agency’s Magic Valley region:
“The Lava Lake access road along the west shore is still underwater. The Carey Lake parking lot is surrounded by huge floating grass mats, and generally the pond looks like Lake Erie. Silver Creek is shaping up nicely for the opener. Pelicans are being vigorously hazed. Little Wood Reservoir is still down and spilling as there is a lot more snowmelt to come. The Fish Creek boat ramp is in the water, but boating would be hazardous due to the low lake level, fishing would be mostly a waste of time anyway, lots of water but not that deep. The Little Wood River is brown and blown out. Stay away from the Big Wood River until at least July 4. The same goes for the tributaries. Magic (Reservoir) is brown on the upper end with a lot of floating trash and trees. The lower lake was relatively clear last weekend. Fishing success will slow with this cold snap ... Thorn Creek is full, but the road across the dam is still flooded. The Richfield Canal is running at max capacity and probably has entrained fish from the canyon in it. No chance at a high mountain lake before July 4.”
Two more tidbits
You knew about the Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association’s webcam at Redfish Lake, right? (It’s at DiscoverSawtooth.org/webcam) But now the Picabo Angler fly shop has a webcam pointed at Silver Creek. Check it out to see if the fish are rising: Picaboangler.net/silver-creek-flyfishing
After an electrical upgrade, Massacre Rocks State Park now offers 20/30/50-amp service for all RV hookups in both its upper and lower loop campgrounds. Both are open, and water is turned back on throughout the park.