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Jan 2009: Henrys Lake Winter 2008 Update by Damon Keen IDFG

As we head downhill towards spring, it is a good time to update the fishery at Henrys. With less than a month before the gates on the fish ladder are opened, all is well. I anticipate taking our hybrid spawn the last week of February – that is if the fish cooperate. Beginning the first week of March, the cutthroat spawn will commence and we will be working towards meeting our quotas. March through May we will be busy spawning, picking eggs, and shipping eyed eggs.

If you are interested in seeing lots of fish, the best month is usually March. We are here 7 days a week during that time-frame and you are always welcome. If you would like to volunteer, give me a call or shoot me an email. So far, the winter, moisture and water carryover bode quite well for the summer. We will be watching the moisture gauges the next couple of months, but so far, we are in good shape. The winter dissolved oxygen levels are holding up as well and we have not needed to deploy aeration. That is always good. I have also been corresponding with a biologist in Colorado with reference to critical winter dissolved oxygen levels.

It is a great resource to compare notes and I think both of us are gaining a good deal of knowledge. Ice out will see our annual gill net effort to determine our population trends of trout and non-game species. It is an all out effort, normally consisting of 8-10 nights of setting nets. We normally set a total 50 nets during that period and the data we gather is of upmost importance to the management of Henrys Lake.

With the number of nets we set, our data is statistically sound and gives us the best perspective of what is going on with the fish population at Henrys. It does not end during the spring however. The winter is filled with examination and more data collection of the fish we have collected during our spring gill net sets. Age class breakdown, annual growth, condition factor (weight relative to length), species composition, and diet are just some of the data we collect.

In the end, our intensive effort provides tremendous insight into the fish population at Henrys. We have a busy schedule of work plans for this summer. Several habitat projects will be completed and we will be conducting a major creel survey on Henrys.

Additionally, 2009 is the end of the two year regulation cycle and we will be conducting public meetings, scoping, and taking public input for the 2010-2011 regulation packet. I also hope to personally sample the fishery this summer. I have been reading the web pages for Henrys tips and maybe I will be able to land that 10 pounder this summer.

One to one correspondence is always appreciated and encouraged. If you have a question or would like to volunteer, feel free to call us at (208)558-7202 or email me at dkeen@idfg.idaho.gov.

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Sept 2008: A Busy Week for the Henrys Lake Foundation

This past year the Henrys Lake Foundation (HLF) embarked on an aggressive plan to fund five fishery improvement projects for $30,000. All of our projects are conducted in partnership with the Idaho Department of Fish Game (IDFG) and other related agencies. The projects span natural reproduction, hatchery reproduction, fishery management and water quality. The first project of 2008 was in February when the HLF purchased a $7000 egg separator for the fish trap.

The new separator has two wheels and is significantly faster than the old separator and dramatically reduces the overall person hours needed to separate live and dead eggs. The tributaries of Henrys Lake continue to receive a lot of attention ever since the inception of HLF 26 years ago. During the week of September 22nd we completed the screening of the last lateral diversions on Targhee and Howard Creeks. These were key milestones given the importance of these two tributaries. Now we can be secure in knowing that the fry and spawning fish are safe from being accidentally diverted into the grazing pastures of the ranches bordering those key tributaries.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to the respective landowners, Ray Clements and partners and Tom Cole.

Our project work didn’t end there. Also during the week of September 22nd, we completed stream restoration efforts on the Empey property on middle Duck Creek and Kelly Creek.

The project work consisted of 4 different parts: the first was to fence the creeks running through the property so that grazing cattle do not erode the stream banks, the second was to raise the creek level below the head gate spillway on Duck Creek to improve fish passage and the third was to provide cattle watering areas by hardening a portion of each stream bottom.

The Kelly Creek project work also included the installation of a culvert so ranch vehicles and cattle can cross the stream in the pasture. In conjunction with the foundation’s stream restoration efforts on lower Duck Creek and Kelly Creek completed in prior years, the entire section of Duck Creek from the lake to Red Rock road and Kelly Creek from the lake to Henrys Lake road is now protected from grazing cattle. Over the next couple years the stream banks will be naturally restored with the growth of tall grazes and willows sheltering the waters edge.

The reduction in silt will expose the natural pebbles and stones in the stream bottom, providing an ideal habitat for adfluvial fish.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to the landowner, Debbie Empey, for supporting our efforts.

The week of September 22nd was also special in that the fencing work on Duck Creek and Kelly Creek was completed by inmates from the Idaho Department of Corrections in St. Anthony.

Under the direction of IDFG personnel, Kim Ragotzkie, Barry Phillips, Nancy Olson, and Paul Franco, the inmates worked hard digging post holes and stringing fence wire. The weather cooperated nicely and although the mornings started out a little chilly the afternoons were sunny and warm.

The work sites could not have been more picturesque with creeks running through golden pastures to the lake, the yellow and oranges of the aspens turning and the majestic mountains in the background. Throughout the week, the inmates were treated to lunches served by the directors of the HLF foundation.

Each director took a turn preparing the lunches and serving them at the job sites. Double cheeseburgers, chili dogs, fried chicken, club sandwiches and pizza were all on the menu. To say the least, the inmates loved the lunches and looked forward the next day’s menu items. The directors took it as an opportunity to express their heartfelt thanks to the inmates for helping to improve the Henrys Lake fishery.

HLF extends special thanks to the IDFG screen shop personnel from Salmon, Idaho. The team led by Jim Jones and Jim Hardy are the go-to source for the design, construction and installation of our self-cleaning screens. In addition to the installation of the 2 new screens on Duck and Howard Creeks they also performed maintenance on our 7 older screens while here during the week of September 22nd.

Following the completion of their work efforts, Damon Keen from IDFG, commented that the tributaries, from a fisheries management perspective, are now in the best shape they have ever been over the last 15 years! Next year will be another big year for the foundation from a projects perspective. Four projects totaling $30,000 have already been approved by the HLF board for funding.

The first project involves replacing the 20-year old self-cleaning screen on lower Duck Creek on the Taft property. The old wooden structure is beyond repair. Although small, the diversion is one of the most important on this tributary since it is the one closest to the lake. The second project is very similar and involves the replacement of the self-cleaning screen on Targhee Creek. Again the old wooden structure is beyond repair.

The new structure will be a double wheel design to support the larger seasonal stream flows. Note: all the new screens are all steel and should last more than 20 years. The third project is to replace the four culverts on Red Rock road where Duck Creek and Rock Creek pass underneath.

This project to improve fish passage is being lead by Lee Mabey from the US Forest Service and Marla Vicks from Fremont County. The old galvanized culvert pipes are in dire need of replacement especially those that are barriers to adfluvial fish migrating from the lake during the spawning season.

The fourth project is to install automated water temperature and flow sensors in Targhee, Howard and Duck Creeks so that a historical database can be compiled to monitor the flows of these tributaries in conjunction with natural spawn production.

By tracking these key tributary attributes, we will better understand the potential benefits of restocking the tributaries in conjunction with the stocking of the lake.

The Henrys Lake Foundation would like to gratefully acknowledge the participation of our partners that help make all our projects possible. They include: Idaho Fish & Game (IDFG) US Fish and Wildlife US Forest Service (USFS) Idaho Department of Agriculture Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Idaho Department of Water Resources Idaho Department of Lands Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Idaho Department of Transportation Bureau of Reclamation Corp of Engineers (COE) Fremont County Fremont County Weed Control National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) You can visit the foundation website https://www.henryslakefoundation.com for further information on how to become involved in these projects and associated fund raising efforts.

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Jan 2008: Aeration at Henrys Lake Winter 2007/08

From Damon Keen IDFG.

I’ve had several questions regarding aeration at Henrys this winter and namely, “Why isn’t the F&G running the aerators?”

First off, identifying what the aeration system is supposed to do is necessary. The aerators on Henrys were installed in the early 1990’s, shortly after a winterkill event that was caused by low dissolved oxygen levels in the lake.

The system consists of 12-2″ PVC lines that fan out in front of the hatchery ladder and are located in staggered positions as far out as 400 yards from shoreline. At the end of the PVC lines aeration heads are attached. The system pushes air through these lines with the means of a 20hp electric motor attached to a large blower. When the system is running, the result is that air is forced through the lines, out the aeration heads, and a fountain of air bubbles to the surface above the heads.

The bubbling action brings warmer water from the lake bottom to the surface, where ice is melted. The newly formed open water can then be recharged with oxygen from the environment.

The system cannot recharge the entire lake with dissolved oxygen. Henrys is a large lake and the impacted area is relatively small. The system was designed to improve dissolved oxygen content in the immediate area of the hatchery. In the event of a major oxygen depletion event, the goal is to improve dissolved oxygen content enough so springtime spawning can be successful.

In the event of a major winterkill, the objective is to at least have sufficient eggs to restock the lake the following fall. Along with improving egg quality, our radio telemetry study in 2007 showed adult trout move along the shoreline during the winter making them more likely to encounter our aerators, which may help survival in stressful times.

Fortunately, with the data and research completed during the early 1990’s by Tom Herron, we have an excellent understanding of what to expect during the winter at Henrys Lake. Dissolved oxygen levels are monitored at several locations shortly after ice forms on the lake.

Monitoring is repeated at intervals and an evaluation is then made to determine if aeration should be deployed. Basically, the data collection points enable us to predict if sufficient dissolved oxygen levels will prevail until ice leaves the lake and natural recharge begins. This method of evaluation allowed us to predict early during the winter of 2003/04 that dissolved oxygen levels could become critical prior to ice off. Therefore, aeration was deployed. Fortunately this winter (2007/08), current dissolved oxygen levels remain good. And although evaluation is ongoing, to date (1/10/2008) aeration is not necessary and the aerators remain idle. The Idaho Fish and Game deploys aeration on poor or marginal dissolved oxygen years. However, winters where sufficient dissolve oxygen levels are present, the aerators collect a little dust. And that’s good.

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Dec 2007: Understanding the Blue Green Algae Bloom

From Damon Keen – IDFG.

Although I’m not a water quality expert, here are a few observations about the bloom we saw this year.

1)Blue green algae are in fact not true algae at all. They are actually cyanobacteria that photosynthesize, produce oxygen and “feed” on the nutrients in the lake.

2)Blue green blooms can occur in many nutrient rich waters, namely waters high in phosphorous and nitrogen. Blooms can occur anytime, but are often seen in late summer and early fall.

3)As with other plant life, when the blue greens die, the decomposition process uses oxygen. Therefore, if conditions are right (or wrong), low oxygen conditions can occur as the bloom “dies” off. This is not common, but we probably saw a minor event like this at Henrys Lake around Labor day.

4)Henrys Lake is a nutrient rich body of water. Most of the phosphorous is delivered to the lake through runoff that occurs in the system naturally. Many other sources of nutrient delivery occur including: septic systems, lawn fertilizers, grazing practices (animal waste) and others.

5)Other factors can contribute to blue green blooms. Those factors include but are not limited to: High water temperatures, drought conditions, lack of flushing effect (although runoff contributes nutrients to the system, it can also dilute the nutrient load by the flushing effect), early ice out, long periods of sunshine, lack of precipitation and others.

6)Nutrient delivery can be reduced by ‘filtering” the water before it reaches the lake. Important filters or buffers around the lake include: Wetland areas, healthy riparian areas, and shoreline vegetation.

7)Blue green blooms can also be toxic, depending on the species present. Toxic blooms are not common and did not occur on Henrys Lake this year. When toxicity does occur, toxic impact to fish is usually not noted. When fish mortality is noted, it can be related to point

So What Can be Done? 1)Maintain/improve the shoreline buffers and riparian areas around the lake. In recent years, two important areas have been enhanced. The lower Duck creek/Kelly Springs area is no longer grazed and vegetation has been dramatically improved along a large area surrounding those two tributaries and a large shoreline area. Additionally, areas north and south of the county boat dock have been fenced and shoreline filtering improved there. However, maintaining/improving other shoreline buffers is important also. 2)Repair/upgrade and pump septic systems. 3)Monitor your own practices, especially if you’re close to the water body. Are you contributing nutrients to the lake by your unwise practices? Can you reduce personal impact?

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March 2007:Telemetry Update – Reported by Damon Keen, Asst Henrys Lake Hatchery Specialist, Idaho Dept of Fish

The radio telemetry project was started this winter, thanks to the partnership with the Henrys Lake Foundation and their financial contribution towards the purchase of radio tags.

We currently have 43 fish tagged and have monitored those fish periodically throughout the winter, via snowmobile. Although it’s far too early to draw any conclusions from these movements, the early indicators are interesting. The best descriptor would be to say the fish are scattered, with some moving great distances quite often and others staying “home.”

Stay tuned as we continue to monitor. Dan Garren, our regional biologist is heading up this interesting project. Dan will have the analysis at the conclusion of the project, forecast to end sometime in late fall or early winter (depending on tag life) 2007.

For two short video segments on Henrys Lake, visit this website by Kris Millgate, a reporter for Tight Line Media: http://www.tightlinemedia.biz/pages/timeout.html. The first segment “Spawning Fish 04/18/07” shows the Henrys Lake spawning effort by Idaho Dept of Fish and Game and volunteers. The second segment “Wired Fish 04/25/07” covers the telemetry project.

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2006 Highlights: Radio Telemetry Trout, Fish Planting, Restoration and More

Radio Telemetry Trout in Henrys Lake

October 2006

A one-year project to monitor the movement of trout in Henrys Lake was begun this month by implanting 30 fish with radio transmitters. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game in a joint effort with the Henrys Lake Foundation, radio tagged and released 30 trout into Henrys Lake. Each week the IDFG will monitor the location of each fish and over the course of the year will be able to learn more about how the trout use Henrys Lake and spawning streams through their movements. The final results of the study will be publicly available at the conclusion of the project in early 2008. If available, interim reports will be posted to the Henrys Lake Foundation website.

Completion of Henrys Lake Fish Planting

September 2006

Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported the completion of the fish plant for Henrys Lake this year. The actual counts are: 149,800 Hybrids (sterile cutthroat and rainbow hybrids), 1,124,685 Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, 107,125 Brook Trout (sterile) and 1,381,610 Total. The plantings went well with little mortality. While the total number of fish was less than planned for the cutthroat and hybrids, the size of the fish was excellent and should result in good survival. The numbers of brook trout exceeded the objective and size again was excellent. It was also noted that statewide IDFG plants 20% of all trout fingerlings (put and grow) at Henrys Lake.

Fry Trap Results on Targhee and Howard Creeks

September 2006

The Idaho Dept of Fish and Game placed traps on the two creeks earlier in the summer to measure the number of fry that move downstream into Henrys Lake. This is one way to determine the success of the natural spawning effort upstream by the cutthroat trout. The department reported a good number of fry moving down Targhee in particular and marked an upswing in natural production. The results were better than anticipated and suggest that the new natural-bottom bridges over Targhee and Howard Creeks were having an immediate positive impact.

Restoration of Duck and Kelly Creeks

August 2006

Duck and Kelly Creeks are important tributaries on the southwest side of Henrys Lake. Over the years the creeks have become silted over and no longer provide meaningful spawning habitat. In order to restore the habitat on Duck and Kelly Creeks a cooperative agreement has been reached with the US Fish and Wildlife Agency, the Henrys Lake Foundation and the owner of the property through which the creeks run. This is a $20,000 project to “improve habitat values for fish and wildlife” through restoration, enhancement, creation and management activities.” The project will begin in the spring of 2007 and will include fencing along the stream banks, re-vegetation, grade and water flow improvements.

Targhee and Howard Creek Cutthroat Trout Spawning Access Restored

June 2006

To mark the completion of the new natural-bottom bridges over Targhee and Howard Creeks, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held on June 3rd at the Targhee Bridge with a reception following at the home of HLF President Ron Slocum. In attendance were Senator Mike Crapo and members of his staff as well as representatives from Idaho Dept of Transportation, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, US Forest Service, and other organizations that assisted in this collaborative effort to restore access to the historic spawning beds for Yellowstone Cutthroat trout in these two tributaries of Henrys Lake. The replacement of the obstructive culverts on these two creeks now allows unimpeded access to miles of historical spawning habitat that was blocked by the culverts. Many trees and boulders were placed in the streams to form pools and runs thereby returning the creeks to natural grades and flow rates. The stream banks were planted with willows and other native plants to provide shade and cover.