Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Fishermen Pour So Fish Can Climb
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Alan Richardson and Ed Northen check the wooden forms Trout Unlimited installed in December 2019.
   
Thursday, November 5, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

A cloudless blue sky and temperatures in the low 60s greeted members from Trout Unlimited as they gathered together near the Lane Ranch pond in Elkhorn.

It was a perfect day for fishing. But they weren’t there to do contest with a rainbow trout. Instead, they were there to make life a little easier for the trout they so love to pursue.

They had come together to build a fish ladder to enable trout easier access to the upper lake near the Lane Ranch clubhouse as the fish make their way up from the Big Wood River to spawning grounds.

 
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Ian Crawford and Alex Klokke shovel wet cement into buckets bound for the fish ladder.
 

“Any time you create a dam, you create barriers. So, we’re providing the fish with stair steps. Every year they leave the Big Wood River to come upstream into Elkhorn in search of gravel beds. We’re providing stair steps that will help them do that,” said Alex Klokke.

 It would have been too much to drive a concrete truck on the lawn near the pond. So, the truck parked on a pullout along Elkhorn Road, pumping its gooey concrete through a cylinder into a wheelbarrow.

Trout Unlimited members shoveled the concrete from the wheelbarrows into buckets—gobs and gobs of buckets—which they then loaded into ATVs that ferried them to the fish ladder.

Once there, others took the handoff, pouring the concrete into wooden forms that had been built earlier.

 
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Alex Klokke, Ian Crawford and Ed Northen pour the cement into the forms.
 

The project is a collaboration between the Lane Ranch Homeowners Association and Trout Unlimited-Hemingway Chapter, which has tried to address culverts, bars and other impediments to the fishes’ foray up side streams and tributaries all along the Big Wood River.

The Lane Ranch pond had a fish ladder. But, over time, the pond level raised and fish could no longer jump into the pond. Trout Unlimited member Bob Law, also a Lane Ranch homeowner, initiated an effort to raise money to replace the old fish ladder and secured Forsgren Associates to design a fish ladder that can be adjusted as the water levels change throughout the year.

The project costs $50,000, paid for by state grants, a Trout Unlimited grant and private donations.

Several of the members came together on a cold snowy day in mid-December last winter to remove the old ladder, install the wooden forms and even pour some concrete. But wintry weather chased them home before they could finish.

 
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The concrete was a bit goopy.
 

Now, with the water lower, it was time to finish the job.

“We’re trying to finish the project before the snow comes,” said Jill Clark.

Concrete pourers used their hands to scoop out the concrete in the bottom of the buckets. Michael and Cayleb Smith took hammers to the wooden plywood, trying to whack the air pockets and bubbles out of the concrete.

The concrete jiggled and bounced as the hammers pounded. And, moments later, a new sludge of concrete made its way between the forms.

 
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Cayleb Smith, right, takes a stick to level the cement as others form a bucket brigade across the creek.
 

As they worked, Ian Crawford couldn’t help telling a big fish story—this one, about the humongous fish he found at Auger Falls near Twin Falls.

“You’ve got to time it for the right time of year,” he added.

The buckets kept coming and the fishermen kept pouring. And, three cubic yards of concrete later, they   were was done for the day. And the fly-fishing rods could come out.

“We still have more work to do,” said Northen. “This concrete has to cure. Then we will put in the ladder portion. But that may not be until spring.”


 

 

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