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Walleye caught on Snake River near Swan Falls Dam

"Walleye aren't 'bad' fish; they're just not suitable for most Idaho waters," IDFG says. The department is concerned about potential impact on existing fisheries.

BOISE, Idaho — An angler has reported to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that he recently caught a walleye on the Snake River below Swan Falls Dam. The report, received on Thursday, June 9, indicates the Snake River is the third body of water this spring in southwestern Idaho in which anglers have encountered walleye.

Photos provided by the angler allowed fisheries biologists to confirm the fish was a walleye. That person also will provide the carcass to Fish and Game, IDFG Regional Communications Manager Brian Pearson said in a news release.

Anglers have also reported finding walleye in Lake Cascade and Lake Lowell. IDFG has taken samples from two walleye caught there this spring. The samples will be tested at a lab for microchemistry analysis, which will help biologists determine how long each fish was in the water from which they were caught and, potentially, the body of water from which they originated.

"It appears very likely that at least some of the walleye caught this spring were illegally introduced by irresponsible, self-serving individuals. While we can't say that with 100-percent certainty just yet, we are actively working to confirm it," said Art Butts, regional fisheries manager.

Walleye are native in the Upper Midwest, and popular with anglers there, but are not native to Idaho. It is illegal for people without proper permits to transport and transplant any fish. IDFG law enforcement staff are asking for any information about who may have done that. Rewards are available for information that leads to a citation. People may submit anonymous tips to the Citizens Against Poaching tipline at 800-632-5999.

Credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Walleye found in June 2022 on Snake River near Swan Falls, reported to Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Anglers who catch a walleye in waters where they are not supposed to exist should kill, remove and report it to a regional IDFG office -- do not throw the fish back into the water. Anglers may keep the fillets, but IDFG asks people to save the carcass and bring it to a regional office or notify IDFG staff and arrange for a pickup.

Idaho fish biologists are concerned about walleye because of the threat to existing fisheries that are "critically important to many other anglers," Butts said. "Illegally introduced walleye have the potential to dramatically and negatively affect the fishery you love, and it's not something anglers should take lightly."

In their native waters in the Upper Midwest, walleye rely on what IDFG calls a "prolific prey base" of minnows and other small fish that are not typically found in Idaho. Without those minnows and small fish, walleye transplanted to Idaho waters prey on popular game fish. In other words, Pearson writes, walleye aren't "bad" fish, they're just not suitable for most Idaho waters.

"Most of Idaho's fisheries are a delicate balance of fish species and other factors that are painstakingly monitored and managed by Fish and Game biologists to ensure sustainable fishing opportunities into the future," Butts added. "The addition of a predator like a walleye into those systems can completely throw off that balance, leading to a collapsed fishery and a loss of opportunity to fish for other species that are vitally important to other anglers."

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