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Fly Fishing Editorial

To Kill, Or Not To Kill A Rainbow Trout



06/17/12 – To Kill, Or Not To Kill A Rainbow Trout

Written By: Jason Bologh – Lead Guide at Fish The Fly Guide Service

Idaho Fish an Game has recently put in place a bounty on Rainbow trout on the South Fork of the Snake River. After shocking the river the past few years, they have implanted chips in the noses of hundreds of Rainbows which are worth $50 to $1000. If you catch one, they want you harvest it and give the head to IDFG to see if you’ve won a prize. This encourages anglers who would not otherwise harvest fish to harvest them.

What is this all about?

Rainbow trout and Cutthroat trout both are Spring spawners and use some of the same tributaries and in some cases the same redds to spawn. Since rainbows grow faster than Cutthroat, they are taking over Cutthroats in the South Fork. Rainbow trout and Rainbow hybrid (Cutt-bow)numbers have increased from roughly 100 per mile in 1989 to 2,270 per mile in 2009, according to a 2011 report. Cutthroat trout peaked at 4,659 per mile in 1986 but fell to 771 per mile in 2004.

rainbow trout fly fishing jackson hole

Cutthroat have since rebounded some as efforts to help them began in earnest. IDF&G uses fish weirs to trap trout swimming into spawning streams and only let Cutthroat reach spawning waters. Biologists ask Bureau of Reclamation officials to time releases from Palisades Dam to benefit spawning Cutthroat, and they’ve encouraged anglers to kill and keep Rainbow and hybridized Cuttbows.

Why should you care?

Idaho officials are trying to protect cutthroat because they are an ecologically important native species and citizens value having the fish in the river. Cutthroat are known for rising to dry flies. What fly fisher doesn’t love fishing dries?

Plus, states want to keep Cutthroat, which were once prevalent throughout the West but now inhabit less than 15 percent of their former habitats, from coming under federal protection. Federal regulations will undoubtedly be more stringent than any current regulations and will affect anglers, irrigators, and local outfitters. Stricter regulations on outfitters means higher costs on already expensive fishing trips.


Jason Balogh harvests Rainbow Trout caught on the South Fork, an invasive species that competes with Yellowstone Cutthroats.


South Fork Snake River Angler Incentive Program for Rainbow Trout

In 2010, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Trout Unlimited initiated the Angler Incentive Program to encourage the harvest of rainbow trout and rainbow / cutthroat hybrid trout on the South Fork Snake River. Rainbow trout are considered to be one of the greatest threats to native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and are not native to the South Fork.

With high water levels last year, there was less time to fish the South Fork and only 1,7540 rainbow and hybrid trout heads were turned in to Idaho Fish and Game – roughly half of the amount turned in in 2010. Anglers on the South Fork are encouraged to harvest all rainbow and hybrid trout caught on the South Fork, and to turn the heads into the regional Idaho Fish and Game office in Idaho Falls. Biologist will scan the heads each month and anglers will be notified if they’re the lucky winners of a cash prize.

    2010 Rainbow/Cutbow Incentive Tags

  • Five $1000 tags; Twenty $500 tags; Fifty $200 tags
  • Two Hundred $100 tags; Three Hundred $50 tags

    2011 Rainbow/Cutbow Incentive Tags

  • Five $1000 tags; Twenty $500 tags; Fifty $200 tags
  • Two Hundred $100 tags; Three Hundred Twenty Five $50 tags

    2012 Rainbow/Cutbow Incentive Tags

  • Seven $1000 tags; Twenty $500 tags; Fifty $200 tags
  • Two Hundred $100 tags; Five Hundred Eighty Three $50 tags


Information From Idaho Fish and Game


Guided Float Trips on the South Fork

Fish The Fly Guide Service works in partnership with The Lodge at Palisades Creek to offer guided float trips on the South Fork of the Snake River. Both “JB” and the team at TLAPC actively support the initiatives of Idaho Fish and Game and deeply care about maintaining the natural Yellowstone Cutthroat population on the South Fork. Contact “JB” or The Lodge at Palisades Creek to learn more about their selection of float tours for the 2012 summer and fall season.


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