Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holding their breath

Trout cut off from water source get a lift to new life

Express Staff Writer

Every fall, regional canal companies divert the flow of water from irrigation canals, signaling a change in season and stranding thousands of fish, which, naturally, didn't get the memo about the shutoff.

Seeing this, the Hemingway Chapter of Trout Unlimited has established elaborate fish rescue operations, gathering up and escorting the breathless creatures to a permanent home in the Big Wood River.

Today, thousands of those fish are getting along swimmingly in the habitats around the Heart Rock Ranch, where since the fall of 2010, property owners Harry and Shirley Hagey have been engaged in a project that has turned out to be one of the largest earth-moving projects in Idaho, said Trout Unlimited member Bob Law.

The Hageys acquired the 4,600 acres of Spring Creek and Crystal Creek ranches, also known as Diamond Dragon Ranch, and decided to restore them so that the spring creeks, wetlands and upland habitat on the property would be in the best shape possible for wildlife after years of serving as a cattle ranch. Shirley Hagey serves on the board of The Nature Conservancy.

More than 60 pieces of heavy equipment have been used to convert the creeks from shallow, warm, muddy ditches into clear, cold streams that flow into the Big Wood River.

Exotic weeds have been removed and replaced by wildlife-friendly grasses to support native insects, birds and other wildlife.

With all the changes, the Heart Rock Ranch had become an appealing location to receive some of those rescued fish, Law said. And so earlier this month, a team composed of Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and the Hageys captured and transported more than 1,000 fish in the hope that they will grow, spawn and increase the fish population in the Big Wood River.

Law encouraged the public to learn about more efforts like the recent fish rescue by attending one of Trout Unlimited's monthly meetings, held at the Roosevelt Grille in Ketchum or by visiting

On Thursday, Dec. 3, Jerry Myers, Trout Unlimited's upper Salmon project manager, will give a presentation on steelhead and their status in the Salmon River.

Steelhead are an ocean-run rainbow trout with a reputation as a world-class freshwater fish. These fish are elusive and the most dedicated anglers spend countless hours trying to catch them. Anglers like Law say the allure lies in the thrill of a steelhead's tug on the line and the leaps it makes in the fight to bring it to ground.

Myer and his fishing buddy and wife, Terry, manage a remote ranch off the Salmon River on Indian Creek, downstream from the town of Salmon.

For more information, call 622-4613.


Trout Unlimited

This month's topic: The status of steelhead conservation on the Salmon River.

Time: Thursday, Dec. 1, from 5-7 p.m.

Place: Roosevelt Grille in Ketchum


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