COEUR d’ALENE — The Idaho Fish & Game Commission recently approved new fishing rules, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
The most significant statewide change is a shift to a three-year cycle. This means the new rules will be effective through 2015. The extension from the former two-year cycle was done to minimize the confusion associated with frequently changing rules.
In Panhandle Region waters, the most significant changes are associated with Lake Pend Oreille, where the lake trout removal efforts and an improving kokanee population have made it possible to restore a limited kokanee fishery. For the first time since 1999, anglers will be allowed to keep a limit of 6 kokanee on the lake that once supported a commercial fishery for the small, landlocked salmon.
In addition to kokanee harvest, the new rules are designed to begin rebuilding the trophy rainbow trout population. This includes a reduction in rainbow trout harvest from unlimited a to a six-trout daily limit, with only one rainbow trout over 20 inches allowed.
Although the Clark Fork River and most Pend Oreille tributaries will remain open year-round, anglers will no longer be able to harvest rainbow from Dec. 1 until Memorial weekend.
The Pend Oreille lake trout harvest incentive program will continue through 2013; however, the program ends for rainbows on Jan. 1, when the new fishing rules take effect. Anglers looking to cash in on the incentive program for rainbow trout must turn in heads before the New Year.
Elsewhere in the region, anglers in the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe river drainages will now be required to release any trout with red/orange slashes under the jaw. The new rule is to address the difficulty anglers were having properly identifying cutthroat trout. In Priest Lake the kokanee limit is being reduced from 15 to 6.
A complete set of the fishing rules is available on the IDFG website http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/fish/rules/, or in hard copy from Idaho fishing license vendors and IDFG regional offices.