Every year thousands of trout and other species of fish which live in the Big Wood River migrate into irrigation diversions and canals never to return to the river. At the end of each irrigation season when the water flows are shut off, the fish become trapped and die.
The Hemingway Chapter of TU has been working with canal companies and Idaho Fish and Game ( IDFG) for over a decade to rescue these stranded trout and put them back into the Big Wood River. When water is about to be shut off, TU is notified by the canal companies or Water Master at which point we recruit volunteers to net and transport the fish from the canals back into the Big Wood River at the location closest to the collection point.
In order to do this, the Hemingway TU Chapter applies for both fish collection and transport permits which are provided by IDFG and follow prescribed collection and transport techniques approved by IDFG. We use seine nets to collect fish from the shallow waters, put them in buckets with oxygen bubblers and then place the fish into an aerated, oxygen infused fresh water tank, where they are held until we finish the collection. Once the collection is complete we transport the fish back to the Big Wood River and put them back in.
One of the difficulties is timing. We have no way to measure how fast the water will percolate into the ground and dry up, so we make our best estimate based upon years of experience. Once we get the shutoff date we have only a couple of days to coordinate volunteers, ready equipment and get to the site to rescue the trout. Recently John Wright of the Diversion 45 Canal company has been working closely with us to provide advanced notification and even maintain some small flows to allow time to rescue the fish. This has helped our success rate in collection of fish.
John Finnell who designed, built and donated the fish rescue tank, has been involved with the fish rescues for years is the point person for this effort and deserves a great deal of credit for the success of this program.
This rescue is both fun and rewarding and volunteers of all ages are welcome to participate. If you have never participated in a rescue, come out and join us. It is usually a three to four hour commitment, but a person can leave whenever they need to.
If interested please contact Ed Northen, firstname.lastname@example.org mobile 949-246-9372.
photo credit Nancy Whitehead