Boise Valley Fly Fishers
 
 
Since 1971

 

CONSERVATION NEWS

News and information on BVFF conservation projects

  • 18 Dec 2022 11:40 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    Boise Flood District 10 has begun their annual winter maintenance in the Boise River to remove debris that could be a flood risk come higher spring runoff flows. This year the Flood District will again be using a map of Brown Trout redds to avoid inadvertently driving through them. Last year the Flood District reported that with the help of the BVFF Redd Map they were able to successfully avoid the Brown Trout Redds--and the machinery drivers even identified some redds that BVFF missed!

    This Fall, BVFF members floated the river from Veterans Park to Star, marking redds and updating the Redd Map for the Flood District. There were noticeably fewer Brown Trout redd counts this year, especially on the North Channel around Eagle Island, which was where the most brown trout redds were last year. We think there were fewer redds because although flows on the main Boise River were slightly higher than last year, the flows on the North Channel were 25% lower. BVFF is partnering with Idaho Fish And Game to track the Brown Trout Redds over time to get a better idea of how they change year to year.

    For more information on this program, see the Idaho Press Article



    BVFF Members Klaus Kissman and Troy Pearse counting redds
    in the North Channel of the Boise River.


  • 07 Dec 2022 11:46 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    The Lower Boise River runs from Lucky Peak dam to the Snake River and the upper section (from the Dam down to Star) has a good population of naturally reproducing rainbow and brown trout. Lucky Peak is a tailwater dam, which helps keep the waters cool in the summer, but three common issues below a dam in an urban area that can limit wild trout reproduction are: 1) Lack of spawning size gravels; 2) Loss of side channels; and 3) Lack of Large Woody Debris.

    GRAVEL AUGMENTATION

    The Boise River has lost much of its spawning size gravels which limits where wild brown and rainbow trout can spawn. Two winters ago, Boise Valley Fly Fishers (BVFF) worked with Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) and Boise River Flood Control District #10 (FCD 10) Boise Flood to improve trout spawning and rearing habitat on a side channel of the Lower Boise River in Garden City. We worked with IDFG to identify areas that had suitable depth and flow for rainbow and brown trout spawning and added a total of 12 cubic yards of gravel to three areas in the side channel. We timed adding the gravel when BFlood10 was in the area doing their annual winter stream maintenance work and they donated time and machinery to move the gravel into the side channel where our volunteers raked it into place.  For more details on the gravel augmentation, see these articles by the Idaho Statesman and BREN.

    LARGE WOODY DEBRIS

    Woody debris provides refuge for trout fry and is critical to the survival of young trout. However, flood control practices in urban areas like Boise remove fallen trees to reduce flood risk. We have been fortunate to be able to work with FCD 10 and they agreed to reposition and retain some fallen trees in this side channel as an experiment to improve trout habitat. We appreciate FCD 10’s extra efforts to improve woody debris when possible.

    SIDE CHANNELS

    Side channels are the best place for trout spawning and rearing. They have reduced flows that are conducive to trout spawning and tend to have the right depth and structure for trout to make their redds. Side channels with year-round flow are the most valuable because they provide opportunities for Brown Trout to spawn in November and they give young trout fry shelter to survive their first winter. BVFF’s side channel has flow year-round, although the entry sometimes gets clogged with rocks and logs placed there by the public to cross, which reduces inflows and blocks fish passage. Please help us keep side channels flowing and do not block them off.

    SPAWNING

    Because of the extended drought, the BVFF side channel has had lower than average flows, but we have seen rainbow trout redds in the spring and brown trout redds in the fall in the areas where we added gravel. A recent review of the gravel we placed in the stream two winters ago shows that the gravel at the head of the channel is making its way down the side channel from higher flows during spring runoff and mother nature is using it to make a new spawning area, which brown trout used this fall to spawn. The gravel at the top of the side channel is getting thin and we are working on refreshing it this winter or next winter.


    FRY SURVEY

    This Fall we were able to accompany IDFG on their annual Lower Boise River trout fry survey and see firsthand how the habitat improvements were working.

    I am very pleased to report that we found dozens and dozens of brown and rainbow trout fry in the side channel!


    Most of the trout fry were located in the large woody debris, which underscores the importance of woody debris. IDFG Fish Biologist Tim D'Amico, who led the fry survey, was very impressed with the number of trout fry in our side channel and commented that it was one of the most productive spots they had sampled that year.

    RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

    A side channel that flows year-round, plus spawning size gravel and woody debris is winning trout habitat combination to improve the trout population. BVFF has adopted this side channel and we plan to continue to work on habitat improvements as well as do regular river cleanups in the area. We are talking with IDFG about the potential to restore year-round flow to other side channels that have become dry over the winter—something that would continue to improve the wild trout populations in the Lower Boise River.

    Another critical factor for success is the partnerships between BVFF, IDFG and FCD 10, working together to improve and protect trout habitat on the Lower Boise River. And we couldn’t do it without the support of our members and volunteers.


    We are raising money to do additional gravel augmentations.  Please buy a "Greenback" from the BVFF store to help support our efforts to increase trout spawning in the Boise River.


    HABITAT SIGNS

    BVFF added a trout habitat sign to the side channel to help educate people about the importance of side channels and the lifecycle of brown and rainbow trout. Since then we have added similar trout habitat signs at the Diane Moore Nature center as well as the first anti-litter sign on the Lower Boise River!

    THANKS

    Our thanks to all of our project partners and volunteers that made this project happen.

    • IDF&G and BioAnalysts who helped us plan the gravel augmentation
    • Boise Flood District 10 who helped move the gravel into the river
    • Sunroc for donating the gravel
    • FFI for funding the Trout Habitat Sign  




  • 23 Oct 2022 10:46 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    I just got back from swinging a fly for steelhead on the Clearwater river.  In my 30 years of fishing for steelhead, the last few years have been the toughest I have experienced. Since retiring from HP I have been able to log way more hours chasing steelhead but have only caught a small number of fish compared to just 10 years ago when I fished a fraction of the hours.

    I had beautiful Fall days on the Clearwater: The sun was bright and the Clearwater river was low and clear. But there were not many fish to be found, and everyone I talked with had the same experience. I expect the rain this week will pull some fish into the river and fishing will (hopefully) improve. I did manage to swing one up on a small pink Klamath Intruder--a 35" hen that was holding in some boulders at the base of a riffle. What a thrill to connect with something that WILD! (Sorry, no Fish Photo. I held her in the water for a brief moment to revive, thanked her, and sent her back on her way.)

    Talking with Rick Williams yesterday, he had a similar experience swinging a fly on the Salmon River near Riggins. He reported that he had nary a bump or swirl...and that it felt like he was fishing an empty river.

    While swinging I had plenty of time to think about the plight of the steelhead (and salmon). The speaker for BVFF's last club meeting was fisheries expert Dr. Rick Williams, who painted a grim picture of the future of anadromous fish in Idaho unless big changes occur soon to the river and management.  The BIG take-away messages I got from his talk were:

    1. In order for a species to survive, it has to produce at least 2 offspring that can reproduce to replace the parents.  Reproduction metrics show that the steelhead and salmon in basins below the four Lower Snake dams are meeting this criteria. The ones above the Lower Snake dams are not.  Over time, this pattern leads to extinction.

    2. Spawning habitat, while important, is not the limiting factor in Idaho.  Tracking spawning habitat use in the M.F. Salmon drainage you can see that on most years only a fraction of the spawning habitat gets used.  I dug up some hatchery smolt release data from Idaho and found that they pretty much release the same number of smolts each year, regardless of the previous year's return, which again emphasizes the number of smolts produced is not the limiting factor.

    3. Idaho steelhead and salmon smolts migrating downstream to the ocean experience a high mortality rate. Every dam has an incremental mortality rate and slows the smolt's outbound migration time.  The biological process of smolting has a time restriction and Idaho smolts have a long way to travel to make it to the ocean. If we want to save Idaho salmon and steelhead then we have to get those smolts to the ocean quicker and with a higher survival rate.  I wish there was a way to open up the locks on the Lower Snake dams to turn it into a more free flowing river during April and May when the smolts are ocean-bound. But the dams weren't designed to do that.  

    4. Idaho has the best high-elevation spawning habitat in the entire Columbia basin, which is important as the climate warms our rivers.  Improving salmon and steelhead returns to Idaho is critical to not only improve our runs, but to the future of Salmon and Steelhead in the Columbia Basin.

    5. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson's plan recognizes that in order to succeed, not only do we need to replace the function of the Four Lower Snake Dams, but we need to recognize and replace the dependencies that they have created.  This really resonated with me after recently reading Blaine Harden's book, "A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia", which gave me new insights into the subsidies created by the dams. I encourage you to check it out of the local library. It is an enjoyable read and you will learn something.

    BOTTOM LINE: If we want to save Salmon and Steelhead for future generations, then we must return the Lower Snake River to a free-flowing river and get Idaho smolts safely to the ocean. Time is not on our side in this issue.  Please share this message and support Congressman Simpson's plan.


    My thanks to Link Jackson for his "Grant Me Freedom" artwork.



  • 14 Oct 2022 11:01 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    In October 2022, volunteers from the Boise Valley Fly Fishers (BVFF) built an Angler Access to the Boise River at the Diane Moore Nature Center . The set of landscape timber steps replace a steep, erosive social-trail that had developed at the site and give anglers a safe way to access this section of the Lower Boise River.

    The project design team was led by retired landscape designer Randy Lancaster along with Greg Kaltenecker from the Intermountain Bird Observatory, local water enthusiast Steve Steubner, and Klaus Kissman and Troy Pearse from BVFF. We had an awesome set of volunteers who worked hard for two days to get the landscape timber stairs built. You can't ask for better volunteers than these guys! My thanks to Klaus Kissman, Troy Pearse, Brian Martin, George Butts, Kent Christensen, Mike Stahl, Joe DeSousa, Tim Opp, Jack Truschel, Scott Lenz, Jay Pryor, and Tim DeMarco.

    You can see some video of the project construction on our YouTube channel, and more photos were uploaded to our Facebook Group Page (note, you do not have to have a Facebook account to see these).

    DAY1-PHOTOS 

    DAY2-PHOTOS 



    The project was a collaborative effort between BVFF and the Intermountain Bird Observatory, which has been championing development of the Diane Moore Nature center under the direction of Greg Kaltenecker who is the Diane and Winston Moore Family Endowed Director.  Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation and BVFF.  BVFF is excited to be working at the Diane Moore Nature Center and is thrilled with their work to restore a historic side channel which adds important spawning habitat and rearing habitat for wild trout in the Boise River.   


    BVFF collaborated with the IBO and Idaho Fish and Game on trout habitat signs that were installed in August along the restored side channel.  One of the habitat signs explains the trout's lifecycle and encourages catch and release fishing in this area which is primarily wild trout.   We were lucky to get an awesome piece of artwork designed by local artist Link Jackson for the second sign which describes the importance of "woody debris" to the survival of young trout.  BVFF is proud to have also helped design and install the first anti-litter signs on the Lower Boise river and we hope to see more of them at other access points.  

    Trout and wildlife need clean habitat. Please pack out all trash. Keep it Wild!  #FillTheNet and #LeaveItBetter



  • 10 Oct 2022 8:37 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    Flows on the Owyhee have dropped for the year, and you can see the dramatic shift in water temperatures as they changed from running water through the power turbines to the bottom outlet works. Water temps were ranging from 50 - 55 degrees daily and have dropped down to 49 - 50 degrees. The reservoir is at critically low levels but thankfully we made it through the season without the power turbines pulling in warmer water from the "epilimnion" warmer surface layer.

    BVFF has been working with ODFW, BofR and the Owyhee Irrigation District on a plan to switch outflows to the lower "outlet works" if needed. For more details about that, see our Conservation News Article

    The cooler water temps will get the BWO hatches going, especially as we get cooler and cloudy weather. The cooler water will also trigger browns to start spawning, so if you go over to fish the Owyhee, please remember to avoid brown trout spawning areas. For more information on how to identify brown trout redds, see our Conservation News Article.


  • 01 Oct 2022 11:42 AM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    October is here, and it is one of my favorite months to fish. Hatches are picking up with Fall Caddis and Blue Winged Olives, and the trout have the feedbag on preparing for winter. But with October comes the brown trout spawning season. The exact timing of spawning depends on water and weather conditions but generally brown trout on the Owyhee start to spawn in October with activity peaking in November and tapering off into December. And on the Boise River in town, browns typically don’t start spawning until the first week of November.

    Brown trout like to spawn in gravel that is ½” to 1.5” in diameter, in water that is 1’ to 3’ deep and has some mild current. The tail-out of a run is one of their favorite places, especially if it has gravel. Gravel tail-outs are also an easy place for anglers to cross the river, so it is important to keep your eye out for redds to avoid wading through them.

    Redds can be identified by the gravel being rubbed clean as fish build their nest. Redds tend to be circular to oblong shaped and are about the size of a hula-hoop. If there is a large gravel deposit, then you will often find multiple redds built next to each other. Here is a photo of a group of redds at the end of a small side channel on the Boise River. Note the size of the gravel and how it has been rubbed clean. There is also a single redd built along the far bank.


    Side channels and bank edges are another common area to find brown trout redds so look before you step into the river. Here are some photos of brown trout redds on the Boise River from last year, and a short REDD-U-Cational Video that shows some brown trout redds in a tail-out.

    When you see brown trout working their redds, it is best to leave them to their task as we all want them to succeed and make more brown trout! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go fishing. It is perfectly ethical to fish other sections of the river where brown trout are not spawning. There are plenty of rainbow trout that are snacking on the stray egg patterns and fishing in the deeper run below can be quite good. Last year the a pink salmon colored “Eggstacy” fly was my top egg pattern on the Boise River. I was amazed at how well the eggstacy material worked. Tim Camtasia has a nice video on how to tie it.

    So get out and enjoy some fall fishing, but remember to watch where you wade. Brown trout redds are vulnerable for several months while the eggs are incubating--in our area that is typically into the month of March. Over time it gets harder to identify the redds as they silt-in from river algae and deposits, so it is best to avoid walking through gravel areas during the winter, especially on the Owyhee where there is so little spawning habitat. In 2019 BVFF worked with ODFW to put signs at vulnerable spawning locations to alert anglers. Watch for those signs, and tredd carefully.


  • 31 Aug 2022 2:23 PM | Troy Pearse (Administrator)

    Between 2015 and 2020 there was a concerning drop in the brown trout population on the Owyhee River in Oregon, particularly in the lower reaches between the tunnel and the concrete bridge 10 miles downstream. Several years ago the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) started looking into the causes to try and protect this precious fishery. The leading suspects were 1) Anglers wading through brown trout spawning redds; 2) Predation of brown trout fry; and 3) Excessive warm water temperatures.

    To help address the first issue, BVFF worked with ODFW in 2019 and installed Redd Protection Signs at major spawning sites. To help reduce the chance of brown trout eating their own fry, ODFW increased stocking of rainbow trout fry in the river, which is why there has been a sudden increase in the number of rainbow trout being caught.

    ODFW’s first review of water temperatures showed that the river stayed plenty cool for trout during the summer, all the way down to Snively Springs. But further analysis of historical water temperatures at the Bureau of Reclamation stream gauge (about a mile below the dam) showed that during the extended drought years 2013 – 2015, Owyhee Reservoir levels dropped to the point that the power turbines started pulling in some warmer surface water which caused increased water temperatures to be released from the dam. We estimate that water temperatures released from the dam in August of 2014 and 2015 were 60 – 65 degrees compared to the normal summertime 50 degrees. This puts water temperatures in the lower reaches of the river into the upper 70s to low 80s, which is in the lethal temperature range for brown trout.

    Over the last two years, BVFF and ODFW have been researching the water temperature issue. We found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for power generation at the Owyhee Dam requires that outflows be managed to ensure water temperatures needed for trout in the river below. Using this information, ODFW has been able to successfully negotiate with the Owyhee irrigation district to change dam operations to pull from deeper in the reservoir when needed. Luckily with our super-wet spring the Owyhee reservoir levels were higher than anticipated so it has not been a problem this year, but we are very happy to have this agreement in place and are thankful to ODFW for their work to help alleviate another warm water event and protect the brown trout on the Owyhee River.

    The brown trout population on the Owyhee river continues to recover, although the lower river is recovering slower than the upper river, partially because of having less spawning habitat. Our club’s gravel augmentation project this Fall will give brown trout new places to spawn and hopefully will increase the population of brown trout on the lower half of the river.

    Special thanks go to Kirk Handley and Dave Banks at ODFW for their ongoing efforts on the Owyhee river. My personal thanks go to BVFF member Forrest Goodrum for his help digging through the FERC dam licensing documents and to Ryan Hedricks from the Bureau of Reclamation for his help understanding the Owyhee dam operation and being a liaison between the different groups.

  • 30 Aug 2022 8:44 AM | Anonymous

    by Brian Martin, Leave It Better Coordinator

    We are looking into a national river adoption program that began in Illinois on the Mississippi River by an organization called Living Lands & Waters. Check out their website at https://www.livinglandsandwaters.org/. This is a river stewardship program designed to keep our waterways clean providing a healthy environment for fish to thrive.

    Our plan is for BVFF to adopt a 1-mile section of the Boise River in the area of our gravel augmentation in Garden City. From there we hope to partner with the cities, counties, and other jurisdictions from the Highway 21 bridge/diversion dam down through Star and possibly further. Each mile section would be adopted by a concerned organization or group. The Women Fly Fishers of Idaho have already expressed an interest in adopting a section if we get the ball rolling.

    This is a huge undertaking and will take a while to come to fruition. If you have contacts in any of the governmental jurisdictions along the river corridor let us know. Together we can plant the seed of this idea in their minds and watch it grow.

    Your help is always appreciated. If you would like to volunteer for any of these projects, let us know or go to our website and register when they are posted.

  • 30 Aug 2022 8:09 AM | Anonymous

    By Troy Pearse

    FISHERMAN ACCESS TRAIL

    BVFF has received a grant from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build a formal fisherman access trail at the new Diane Moore Nature Center. The access trail will formalize a current “social trail” that is causing erosion and give anglers a formal path to the river while stopping bank erosion and protecting native habitat. We will be working with the Intermountain Bird Observatory to create signs to educate users about the Nature Center and Barber Pool conservation area. It will be a 2-day project in early October. Stay tuned for more details. We will need a good number of volunteers to help build the access trail.

    NEW SIGNS

    In August BVFF volunteers installed Trout Habitat and Anti-Litter signs along the restored side channel at the new Diane Moore Nature Center, located between Barber Park and Lucky Peak. The signs look great, and we are very excited to have the very first anti-litter signs on the Boise River. We are hoping to be able to leverage them into more access locations in the future.

    We were joined by Link Jackson, local outdoor enthusiast who designed artwork for the Side Channel sign, as well Greg Kaltenecker from the Intermountain Bird Observatory who has been leading the development of the Diane Moore Nature Center. Thanks to our volunteers: Scott Lenz, Randy James, Klaus Kissman , Jack Truschel, Jon Fishback , Jose' DeSousa, Tim Opp, Johnny Rogers, Kent Christensen, Brian Martin , George Butts, Jeff Jones and Troy Pearse.

  • 30 Aug 2022 8:04 AM | Anonymous

    By Troy Pearse 

    BVFF has received a $3,000 grant from Fly Fishers International (FFI) to help fund our gravel augmentation project on the Owyhee River. We have also applied for a $2,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and will hear from them by the end of October. My thanks to BVFF member Forrest Goodrum for his help in submitting for the FFI grant.

    The gravel augmentation is planned for early November, which is the beginning of the “work window” for doing in-river work in Oregon. We have targeted the lower end of the river for the augmentation because it has much less suitable spawning habitat and less brown trout spawning activity. If all goes well, this gravel augmentation will improve the productivity of the lower river and make for much better fishing in years to come.

    Keep watch for volunteer opportunities in early November to help with the project. It should be quite a show to watch the gravel-slinger truck shoot 100 cubic yards of gravel into the river!

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