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IDAHO APPROVES FISHING RULES, SEEKS INPUT ON BEAR LAKE PLAN

SHARE IDAHO APPROVES FISHING RULES, SEEKS INPUT ON BEAR LAKE PLAN

Encouraged by broad public support at hearings across the state, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has approved fishing regulations for 1990 and 1991.

At the conclusion of its two-day meeting Tuesday in Boise, the commission also voted to begin gathering public comment on a draft fisheries management plan for Bear Lake, where cooperation with Utah has run into snags.Steve Huffaker, chief of the Fisheries Bureau for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the 1990-91 fishing regulations make no major changes in current rules but do include a number of technical and language revisions aimed at "expanding opportunities for trophy and quality fisheries."

In drafting the new rules, Fish and Game staff also tried to simplify the regulations, to make them more consistent and to eliminate restrictions that have no demonstrable need, Huffaker said.

Al Van Vooren, the department's resident fisheries manager, told the commission that public comment at a series of regional public hearings and open houses drew mostly positive input on the proposed rules. Even where restrictions are placed on fishing methods or harvests, Van Vooren said, most anglers seem satisfied that Fish and Game has a legitimate biological need.

But things are not as clear in the effort to improve fishing in Bear Lake, which straddles the border with Utah in southeastern Idaho.

Idaho and Utah wildlife officials have been operating under an agreement aimed at maintaining the lake's populations of cutthroat trout, cisco and other endemic species. But Idaho officials have been pressing in recent years for action to improve the Bear Lake fishery, even proposing recently that the lake be stocked with chinook salmon.

Meanwhile, local residents are getting impatient with the lack of progress.

"They want something to happen with that lake, and not just meetings," said Commissioner Louis Racine of Pocatello.

Utah wildlife managers have the same goal, Huffaker said, "but their management pace is a little bit different than ours."

He said part of the problem slowing the advance of programs to plant fish in Bear Lake from Idaho Fish and Game hatcheries is Utah's concern over its commitment to the Colorado River Compact to prevent the introduction of diseases to fish populations in Utah waters.

That requires a lengthy process of certifying that hatchery fish planted in the lake are free of disease, which poses problems for Idaho fisheries managers, Huffaker said.

Complicating the situation is a shortage of food organisms in Bear Lake that could support larger fish populations, or populations of larger fish.

The draft management plan presented to the Fish and Game Commission on Tuesday outlines a number of goals and possible options for improving the Bear Lake fishery. Huffaker said Fish and Game would begin a public hearing process on the plan and prepare an improvement program for Utah's consideration by the end of the year.