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Commentaries and editorials

It Makes Sense to Save Fish Runs

by Pete Zimowsky
The Idaho Statesman, November 9, 2003

Even a ‘cheapo’ weekend steelheading gives economy a boost

Idahoīs salmon and steelhead runs are too valuable to lose.

If youīre an angler, the joy of hooking into one of these giant sea-run critters is incredible, tremendous, unforgettable. Words just canīt describe it.

If youīre a fish watcher or naturalist, seeing a salmon or steelhead in a high-country spawning tributary is awe- inspiring.

Iīll never forget seeing steelhead in a small tributary of the Snake River while backpacking in Hells Canyon.

Seeing the carcass of a spawned-out salmon while hiking along Marsh Creek in September is etched in my memory.

When it comes to salmon and steelhead, I can get pretty sappy. The spiritual thing of being on the river and seeing these creatures is food for the soul.

With that said, letīs talk about the the economic value of saving our fish runs.

The money that salmon and steelhead fishing can bring to the cities and towns of Idaho is pretty amazing.

And weīre not just talking about towns along major salmon and steelhead rivers.

Boise, Lewiston and Pocatello anglers have to buy supplies before leaving town.

Studies show that the 2001 season for hatchery salmon generated $90 million for the state. Another report shows that during the 1992-93 steelhead season, $90 million was contributed to the stateīs economy.

Just think of the additional economic benefits that restored wild salmon and steelhead runs would bring. It would be a guarantee of fishing for the future and for the economy.

I know that you donīt want an economics lesson. Itīs more fun to talk about lures and fishing. But what does all this mean when it comes to real bucks?

Just because your town isnīt right on a steelhead or salmon river doesnīt mean it isnīt benefiting from good fish runs.

OK, I pride myself in being a cheapo steelhead angler. I have my own drift boat, fishing rods and usually camp to save money. So Iīm not like other anglers who hire guides and rent motel rooms.

Reports show that anglers spend upwards of $189 a day to fish for steelhead. That shouldnīt be surprising.

Hereīs what I spent for four days of steelhead fishing in the Riggins area last month, and Iīm fairly prepared with gear:

Thatīs $256.50 to fish for steelhead. That was spent at businesses throughout western Idaho.

While the $64 a day doesnīt meet the average of $189, itīs still a significant contribution to the economy.

I didnīt realize I spent that much to go steelheading until I added everything up.

Oh, I didnīt throw in the price or depreciation of the drift boat and trailer, the tent trailer, assorted maintenance work on both trailers, fishing rods, waders, fishing license, steelhead tag and everything else associated with a weekend outdoors.

There are about 57,000 steelhead anglers in Idaho.

Multiply the number of anglers with what I spent per day or the $189, and weīre talking a lot of bucks.

The economics of fishing makes it easy to see that we need water for fish runs, and we need protection of salmon and steelhead rivers and habitat.

Itīs simple math.


Pete Zimowsky
It Makes Sense to Save Fish Runs
The Idaho Statesman, November 9, 2003

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