Perch Derby Highlights Plight Of Seattle-area Kokanee Stock

Another yellow perch derby will be held on Lake Sammamish, this one on Saturday, May 18, part of a larger effort to recover the lake’s kokanee population.

THE 2ND ANNUAL LAKE SAMMAMISH PERCH DERBY WILL BE HELD SATURDAY, MAY 18, WITH CASH AND PRIZES TO BE AWARDED FOR ANGLERS WHO BRING IN YELLOWBELLIES LIKE THIS ONE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

It follows on an initial derby put on last September by Trout Unlimited, who say that catching yellowbellies will help the metro water’s landlocked sockeye. Juvenile perch compete with kokanee for zooplankton, key forage for the native fish.

Headquartered at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, the derby begins at 8 a.m. and runs till 1 p.m. 

“There will be adult and kid divisions with prizes awarded to the person catching the longest perch, the heaviest perch, and the heaviest 25 perch, and also a bonus prize for the largest pikeminnow caught by registered anglers,” reads a TU event announcement.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for kids, and all proceeds go towards recovering Sammamish kokanee.

Those in the King County lake have been struggling for decades as the surrounding area has urbanized and water quality has declined. Despite efforts to prop up the population in recent years, there has been an alarming decline in spawning numbers. Less than 20 were counted in tributaries in fall 2017, prompting an emergency response from county officials.

TU was among the groups that in 2007 petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the stock under the Endangered Species Act, but in 2011 the feds declined to do so, saying it wasn’t an independent population.

According to state biologist Aaron Bosworth, yellow perch were introduced into Sammamish in 1915, and though it’s unclear who put them there, it came near the end of the era when the U.S. Fish Commission was moving Eastern gamefish into Western waters.

These days, efforts are being made to get them out of the lakes, or limit their impacts to young salmonids.

During last fall’s derby, 636 perch weighing 146 pounds were weighed in, with Jeff Stuart accounting for nearly 19 pounds alone, most of anyone.

He also had the longest in the adult division, a near 11½-incher, while in the kids division, Wesley Mehta weighed 7¾ pounds of perch overall and Carson Moore brought in both the longest and heaviest perch.

Sponsors include Washington State Parks, King County, Bass Pro Shops, the Snoqualmie Tribe. For more info, see lakesammamishkokanee.com/perch-derby.

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