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Discovery of Quagga Mussels in Idaho's Snake River Raises Concerns

Plus a new CEO at Grundens, Montana access, Columbia Steelhead, and Science on the Fly in Fly Fisherman's News Briefs for October 1, 2023.

Discovery of Quagga Mussels in Idaho's Snake River Raises Concerns

Quagga mussels, native to Eastern Europe, have been a menace to the Great Lakes region, where they have wreaked havoc on aquatic ecosystems and water infrastructure. (Photo courtesy of the NPS)

The larvae of the highly invasive aquatic species quagga mussels have been discovered in the Centennial Water Park section of the Snake River in Twin Falls, sending ripples of concern through the local communities, environmentalists, and policymakers. The invasive mussels were found by a group of researchers conducting routine water quality tests in the river, marking the first confirmed presence of these damaging mollusks in Idaho's waterways.

In response, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) closed the river and tributaries from Shoshone Falls to the Highway 46 bridge (about 23 miles) to all access, starting September 21, while it determines the extent of the invasion. The Idaho Fish & Game Commission also voted Friday morning to close this portion of the Snake to all fishing, hunting, and trapping as a "companion reinforcement action supporting the overall closure put in place by the Idaho Department of Agriculture."

Quagga mussels, native to Eastern Europe, have been a menace in many parts of the United States, particularly the Great Lakes region, where they have wreaked havoc on aquatic ecosystems and water infrastructure. The discovery of these invasive mussels in the Snake River has raised alarms due to the potential threat they pose to Idaho's fragile and struggling anadromous fishery.

“These invasive pests will clog pipes that deliver water for drinking, energy, agriculture, and recreation,” Governor Little said. “This is a very high priority for Idaho and for me, given the gravity of the risk. If we are not successful, an unchecked spread – which we are doing all we can to stop – has the potential to cost Idaho hundreds of millions of actual and indirect costs. Thankfully, we caught the mussels early on and have already started a robust response to get these mussels OUT of our waters. We need everyone to support these efforts.”

The Snake River, a critical water source for agriculture, recreation, and wildlife including endangered wild steelhead, is now at the center of a race against time. Quagga mussels are notorious for their ability to multiply quickly, forming dense colonies that can damage boats, pipes, and native aquatic ecosystems. They can disrupt the food chain by outcompeting native species for resources.

Montana FWP Issues Clarification on Stream Access Law

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) issued a statement on Friday intending to answer recently received questions seeking clarification on the state’s iconic stream access law.

A new brochure, released on September 8, covers the nuances of the law and states: “All surface waters capable of recreational use may be so used by the public up to the ordinary high-water mark without regard to the ownership of the land underlying the waters. The limit on water-related pleasure activities is the water resource itself. The laws do not apply to recreational use of lakes.”

A fly angler wading shin-deep on a sunny day on the Lower Madison River.
Montana's stream access law states that "all surface waters capable of recreational use may be so used by the public up to the ordinary high-water mark without regard to the ownership of the land underlying the waters." (Joshua Bergan photo)

Some vagaries remain, however, such as the statement: “There may be times during the year when flow and physical condition of these waters may not permit their use for certain kinds of recreation.” The flow, condition, and kinds of recreation are not defined, leaving room for landowner/angler conflict. The functional difference between Class I and Class II waters is also unclear.

“The public has a right to enjoy water-based recreation on rivers and streams in Montana below the high-water mark,” said FWP Director Dustin Temple. “The public also has the right to access rivers and streams from public road right of ways and easements, including bridges. This is settled law and we will continue do our part to ensure these rights are maintained on behalf of the recreating public.”




For full coverage of Montana’s stream access law, click here.

Memo Issued Directing Prioritization of Columbia Salmon and Steelhead

The Biden administration announced a directive last week to prioritize the restoration of salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River Basin. The administration's efforts include a $200 million agreement to reintroduce salmon to the Upper Columbia River in the memorandum directing federal agencies to prioritize salmon restoration.

The Columbia River Basin is home to a variety of salmon species and steelhead, which play a vital role in the ecosystem. They provide food for other fish and wildlife, and they support a thriving commercial and recreational fishing industry.

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Salmon and steelhead populations have been declining for decades due to a number of factors, including dams, overfishing, and climate change. The Biden administration's actions are a critical step in reversing this trend and ensuring that salmon and steelhead continue to thrive in the Columbia River Basin for generations to come.

Grundens Hires Former Rapala CEO

Grundéns, the renowned fishing and outdoor apparel brand, has announced the appointment of seasoned industry leader Nicolas Cederström Warchalowski as its new CEO. The former CEO of Rapala VMC Corporation brings a wealth of experience and a dynamic vision for the future of Grundéns.

The Grundens logo over a cloudy aerial ocean scene with a few small islands.

“We’re delighted to welcome Nicolas to the Grundéns family. His deep global industry knowledge, strategic acumen and customer centric approach make him the ideal leader to guide Grundéns through its next phase of global expansion,” Chairman of the Grundéns board Topher Gaylord said in a press release.

Under Cederstrom Warchalowski's leadership, Rapala experienced significant growth and success, becoming a global leader in fishing tackle.

Grundéns has a strong presence in the North American market, but its new leader has hinted at his intentions to explore new markets and expand the company's product offerings. He emphasized the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility, hinting at future initiatives to ensure Grundéns continues to lead the way in eco-friendly outdoor gear.

“I have always admired the Grundéns brand, which first caught my eye on commercial fishermen on the west coast of Sweden. To see the Grundéns brand gain traction in the sport fishing market has really impressed me and I feel greatly honored to have the opportunity to build on the strong foundations of the brand and work closely together with all Grundéns team members to unlock the next chapter of growth for the business,” Cederstrom Warchalowski said.

Science on the Fly Harnesses Fly Fishing Community to Protect Rivers

Science on the Fly, a project of the Woodwell Climate Research Center (formerly Woods Hole Research Center) and fly-fishing brand Fishpond, is a community science initiative that harnesses the enthusiasm, geographic reach, and conservation ethic of the fly-fishing community to strategically increase the number of rivers globally that are subject to long-term studies of water quality and watershed health.

The project was founded in 2017 by a group of fly-fishing enthusiasts and scientists who were concerned about the impact of climate change on rivers and the fish that live in them. They saw that fly fishing guides, outfitters, and individual anglers were uniquely positioned to collect water quality data from remote and understudied river systems.

Science on the Fly provides these community scientists with the training, equipment, and support they need to collect water samples and submit them to a central database. The data is then analyzed by scientists at Woodwell who use it to track changes in water quality over time and identify areas that are most at risk from climate change.

Since its launch, Science on the Fly has grown to include over 150 community scientists who are sampling rivers in 42 states and 6 countries. The project has already collected over 10,000 water samples, which have provided valuable insights into the health of rivers around the world.

For more information or to get involved, visit https://scienceonthefly.org/.

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