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IDF&G Gets New Regional Fisheries Biologist

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Jim Fredericks says Pend Oreille is one of his favorite regions in the state Jim Fredericks says Pend Oreille is one of his favorite regions in the state

Ned Horner retires to the Farmer's Market and Jim Fredericks steps into his shoes.

Ned Horner used to pull his red wagon to the nearest pond to catch large goldfish; they would reside in a large, claw foot tub until he could sell them to pet stores for 50 cents a piece. When he realized that the store sold them for $3 each, he upped the ante to 75 cents. Though he may not have made his fortune this way, he did gain insight into what he really wanted his future to bring: fish, and lots of ‘em.

After 28 years of service with Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), Horner has “retired,” though he’ll admit even that is a stretch of the truth. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Horner moved to Moscow, Idaho for graduate school, where he graduated in 1978. After a brief stint with University of Idaho as a research associate, Horner landed a job with IDFG. Initially, he was a temporary employee at Cascade Reservoir, where he worked on evaluating how quickly oxygen was depleted when the lake froze. From there, he moved to Coeur d’Alene in 1982 to be a regional fisheries biologist.

“It was a move from Hell,” he recalls. “It was 30 below in McCall, with three feet of snow on the ground and not a lot of lead time.”

After just two years of work as a biologist, Horner was promoted to regional fisheries manager, a position he retained for the next 23 years. The job is a big one; managing fish in the five northern counties wouldn’t be an easy task for anyone. Horner has the distinction of being the longest standing regional fisheries manager in the history of IDFG.

North Idaho is known, it turns out, for its passionate anglers. “What I tried to do,” Horner says, “is meet the needs of the specialized anglers but also provide general opportunities for people who just wanted to go fishing once in awhile.”

Horner reports that in the region, he helped to establish and maintain waters with channel catfish, tiger muskie, trophy pike, blue gill (which he introduced), splake (a cross between brook and lake trout), grayling in high mountain lakes, and kids’ fishing ponds.

When asked about challenges during his career, “that’s easy,” he says with a smile. “Pend Oreille, Pend Oreille, Pend Oreille.”

Horner recalls how in the 1980s, when the kokanee population was still high, anglers complained about the lack of trophy rainbow trout. So he talked the Canadians into giving IDFG pure strain Gerhard rainbow trout. “It was a combination of regulation reform and stocking the rainbow,” he says with pride, “but for awhile there we had phenomenal trophy rainbow fishing.” As the kokanee population declined, IDFG had to eliminate stocking any more rainbow and cease taking on kokanee. “That’s where, in trying to communicate with people about the history of Lake Pend Oreille, the management needs and the status of the fishery, it’s always been a huge challenge,” he says.

Horner and his wife Kathy are very involved in the Coeur d’Alene Farmers Market scene, and between that and the demands of his job as a fisheries manager, Horner says he was feeling the need to slow the pace of his life. He took a part-time job with Avista doing fishery work in the waters of the Lower Clark Fork River. He is enjoying his new job. “It’s nice to be able to focus on just a few projects at a time, and to be outside more,” he says.

At the Farmers Market, Horner and his wife sell budding tomato, eggplant and pepper plants in the spring, perennial flowers, hanging baskets and lilies in the early summer, and fresh flower bouquets as summer progresses. Most people don’t know this side of Horner. In the fall, they “do a lot of gourd things,” such as gourd art like jack-o-lanterns and bird houses. This will be their eleventh year at the Market.

While Ned is tending to his garden, a new regional fisheries manager, Jim Fredricks, will be moving in. Originally from Moscow, Idaho, Fredricks is no stranger to the Panhandle. After he decided that psychology was not as fun as fishing, Fredricks ditched his original major to go for a master’s degree in fisheries at University of Idaho. Fredricks began with IDFG in 1994, and even did work as a regional fisheries biologist on North Idaho waters in the beginning. He is excited to come back.

“All of the regions in Idaho have something to offer; they are all unique in their own way,” says Fredricks. Pend Oreille and the Upper Snake, where he lives and works now, are reportedly his favorite regions in the state.

“I think change is good—people should move around and bring new perspectives; you’re always learning, and it’s good for the resource,” says Fredricks.

Fredricks says he has spent a lot of time thus far in his career dealing with non-native fish invasion, a familiar issue in the Pend Oreille drainage. In the South Fork of the Snake River, rainbow trout are expanding and taking over Yellowstone cutthroat trout habitat. Fredricks has been working closely with anglers and water managers, and feels that, collectively, they have made a lot of headway over the years. He also has been closely following the Lake Pend Oreille issues having to do with lake and rainbow trout taking over bull trout habitat and eating an awful lot of kokanee. So much kokanee, in fact, that this past year IDFG saw a record-low number of spawning adults.

“It is a new era of fisheries management,” he says. “Now we’re in an era of recognizing the importance of native fish and trying to undo some of what our predecessors did.”

Fredricks has plans to make new acquaintances and rebuild old relationships so he can get to work. Fredrick’s takes a collaborative approach to his work. He acknowledges many of the organizations that work on natural resource issues are valuable assets for fish and wildlife management with confident and professional staff. Perhaps philosophy would have been an appropriate field for him also.

“IDFG can’t do everything we’d like to do,” he says. “We need to share the management of resources, work with people, and get to know our stakeholders.”

So, expect to see a new friendly face in the traditional IDFG gear—Carhartt pants, the trusty flannel shirt, and the signature wool vest. Fredricks is anxious to get the ball rolling. With 14 years of service with IDFG, it could be the psychology plays a part in his continued enthusiasm. The role of regional fisheries manager is a high-profile, very public position. Surely we’ll get to know him exceptionally well over the next few years.

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Kate Wilson Kate Wilson was a Project Journalist for Avista's Clark Fork Project. She has been interested in environmental issues since she was a youngster.

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