As Fish and Game stocks rainbow trout this spring, they are doing something different that will lead to better success for Idaho anglers. A good share of the hatchery fish stocked in Idaho's largest still-water fisheries will be twelve inches long instead of the standard ten inches. Watch this video to learn why this is happening.
Fish and Game’s rainbow trout hatchery program exists for one sole purpose: putting fish in Idaho waters for anglers to catch. But during the last ten years, the cost of raising fish has skyrocketed. While the cost of fish food has increased by more than 150 percent, funding for the hatchery program has remained stagnant. In 2011, managers reduced fish production by 18 percent to keep the program within budget. At the same time they started tracking fish that anglers caught as part of a program called “Tag-You’re-It.”
Fisheries researchers tagged thousands of fish over a four year period, and tracked the tags with the help of anglers.
“We tagged a bunch of fish and put those fish out there, and essentially let the anglers do the work in returning that information to us through our hotline and our website,” said Senior Fisheries Research Biologist John Cassinelli. “So that has given us this large database.”
That database showed that twelve inch rainbow trout are more likely to be caught than ten inch trout. This knowledge has allowed researchers to reorganize the hatchery rainbow trout program in a way that saves money, and puts more fish in the creels of Idaho anglers, with the added benefit that those fish will be bigger.
The science and math show that for every limit of six rainbow trout anglers catch, Fish and Game must stock roughly 18 ten inch trout. When 12 inch trout are stocked in the same waters, only 11 fish are needed for each six fish limit, on average.
Regardless of how many trout managers stock, the true measure of success for the hatchery program is how many trout anglers catch. As the program expands over the next 16 months, managers will be putting more twelve inch rainbows into most of Idaho’s large still-water fisheries. By the summer of 2016, nearly half of the rainbow trout released into those lakes and reservoirs will be twelve inches.
Check out the fish stocking page for monthly updates on fish stocking region by region.