A quest to have some portable toilets placed along the South Fork of the Clearwater River for steelhead anglers has led Butch Suor of Stites on a mission to change the way money generated from salmon and steelhead permits is allocated.
Last fall, Suor called the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and asked for the toilets. He was told there wasn’t enough money in its budget to do so. That irked him, and he started doing some digging.
Earlier this month, he presented his findings to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission during a public hearing at Lewiston. Salmon and steelhead tags cost $12.75 for residents and $25.75 for nonresidents. But only $4 actually goes to regional offices to pay for managing the fishery, with another $1.75 going to vendors.
“Administration is taking 63 percent of resident tags and 83 percent of nonresident tags. To us as sportsmen, this is too much,” he said during his allotted three minutes to address commissioners.
Neither the department nor commissioners have the power to change the allocation, which is set by the Idaho Legislature.
He asked the commissioners to look into it. He is also hoping anglers take notice of the permit allocation statute and lobby their legislators to change it.
“The sportsmen of Idaho need to be aware, because the sportsmen are going to need to go to the Legislature to get it changed,” he said.
Suor believes salmon and steelhead permits are a bargain. A salmon tag allows anglers to catch 20 spring and 20 fall chinook and as many as 40 steelhead per year.
“One salmon pays for your tag,” he said. “It’s $10 a pound in the store.”
Anglers he talks to would be willing to pay more than $20 for permits. But he said it makes no sense to raise fees until the allocation has changed. For example, if the permit prices were raised, along with other hunting and fishing fees, the state statute would still only give regional offices a $4 cut of the permit.
“It won’t do any good to raise tag prices until this allocation of monies is reviewed and changed to a healthy percentage (of the tag price),” he said.
Suor said that money could be used for items like toilets, the purchase or lease of fishing access sites, access for handicapped anglers, improvement of access sites, fish cleaning facilities and to hire more staff to manage fisheries.