1951 - Ramps, Rivers and Potties

We’re all familiar with the brown “access” sign along the highway with the little fish and the hook. It means a ramp to launch our fishing boat, and maybe a place to find a little relief from too much coffee. All these ramps, rivers and potties owe their existence to Idaho Fish and Game’s Boating and Fishing Access Program.

Idaho Fish and Game’s fishing and boating access program’s roots extend back to 1929 when $240 of angler license money was used to acquire Jimmy Smith Lake in Custer County. But it really took off in 1951 when Idaho Fish and Game used Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Funds to purchase Caldwell Ponds in south Idaho. This funding source took the boating and fishing angler access program budget from less than $1,000 per year to putting more than $1,500,000 per year on-the-ground for angler access in 2014.

Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Fund is funded by a 10% excise tax on fishing related equipment and clothing along with a tax on motorboat fuel and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Funding from this program is allocated annually to the various states based on land mass and number of fishing licenses sold to the public.  In 1984, the Wallop-Breaux amendment required the states spend a fixed percentage of the federal funds on boating access projects.  
At the present time, Idaho is investing 15% of their federal Sport Fish Restoration funds on development of new angler boating access sites or renovation of existing managed boating access areas.  In the 1990’s, there was a $4 set-aside fee added to the sale of all salmon and steelhead permits sold that was to be dedicated to building/maintaining angler access sites for anadromous (ocean-going) fishery anglers. These funds are applied to access sites along the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake rivers. 

This complex fishing and boating access program requires close coordination between the Department’s Engineering Bureau and construction crew, fish and wildlife program managers, on-the-ground recreation site foremen, state and federal agencies, local Waterway Commissions and the angling public. This large number of partners has provided many unique funding solutions and long-term maintenance options. The result is the program’s developed novel efficiencies for building and maintaining access areas, such as “pour-and-push” boat ramps, pre-fabricated concrete outhouses, and mass-built dock systems. Today, Idaho Fish and Game has one of the most cost-effective programs in the country and is recognized as innovative leaders in providing Idaho angler access to low-maintenance sites.

Much has changed in the program since its inception.  Idaho Fish and Game now has full-time staff dedicated to engineering, maintenance and infrastructure improvements and invest between $300,000 and $500,000 per year into the angler boating and fishing access program – thanks to the Dingell-Johnson and Wallop Breaux federal legislation.  It is our goal to make the sites available to anglers with disabilities, when financially and physically feasible.  Although, sites in the fishing and boating access program were acquired and developed with funding from anglers and generous landowners, they are open to all users for recreational purposes – free of charge.

At the present time we are managing 329 boating and fishing angler access sites serving salmon, steelhead and resident fish anglers.  You can find this and other fishing information on our Fishing Planner.