Tag Archives: kokanee

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.

50 Walleye Worth $1,000 Each Waiting To Be Caught In IDFG Lake Pend Oreille Study

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

If the great taste of a walleye fillet isn’t enough, anglers will now have added incentive to catch and keep walleye in Lake Pend Oreille and connected Idaho waters. Starting March 1, an experimental program launched by Idaho Fish and Game and Avista will offer a chance at cash rewards for anglers harvesting walleye.

IDAHO FISHERY MANAGERS SAY NONNATIVE INVASIVE WALLEYE WILL BE SWIMMING IN LAKE PEND OREILLE “FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE” BUT THEY ARE ALSO TESTING WHETHER ANGLERS CAN HELP KEEP THEIRS POPULATIONS IN CHECK THROUGH A STUDY THAT INVOLVES SPECIALLY TAGGED FISH WORTH $1,000. (MATT CORSI, IDFG)

Fifty walleye in Lake Pend Oreille, the Clark Fork River and the Pend Oreille River have been injected in the snout with a tiny, internal tag. These tags are invisible to anglers, but turning in heads from legally caught walleye offers anglers a chance at two types of cash rewards. Anglers will receive $1,000 for a head that is turned in from a tagged walleye. Additionally, every walleye head turned in enters anglers in the monthly drawing for ten cash prizes of $100 each.

There is no bag limit on walleye in the Pend Oreille system. For rules and entry details visit Fish and Game’s Lake Pend Oreille Angler Incentive Program website or any of the following fish head freezer locations:

McDonald’s Hudson Bay Resort, 17813 E Hudson Bay Rd, Bayview
Fish & Game Field Office, 16805 Limekiln Rd, Bayview
Garfield Bay Boat Launch, 61 W Garfield Bay Rd, Sagle
Glengary Boat Launch, Marina Rd, Sagle
Peck Landscape Supplies & Farm Store, 468215 Hwy 95, Sagle
North 40, 477181 N Hwy 95, Ponderay
Arnie’s Conoco, 32131 Hwy 200, Kootenai
Holiday Shores Resort and Cafe, 46624 Hwy 200, Hope
Hope Marine, 47392 Hwy 200, Hope
Bonner Park West, 500 Railroad Ave, Priest River
Fish & Game Regional Office, 2885 W Kathleen Ave, Coeur d’Alene (weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)


Concerned about closures in your area? Book the world’s best salmon and halibut fishing in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), Canada. Click HERE to learn more.

Experimental approach focuses on fishing power

Walleye were essentially non-existent in Lake Pend Oreille ten years ago, but numbers have been rapidly increasing since 2014. The population likely originated from an illegal introduction of walleye into Noxon Reservoir in the early 1990’s. These fish moved downstream into Idaho via the Clark Fork River. Biologists now fear walleye may cause a decline in kokanee and other high-demand sportfish, such as rainbow trout, native bull trout and cutthroat trout, and bass.

Using information provided by this experimental program, biologists will evaluate how effective anglers can be at keeping walleye populations in check. The lottery will be paired with an experimental gill netting program to compare effectiveness of both approaches. Walleye harvested from gill nets will be donated to area food banks.

Producing over 35,000 eggs per pound of body weight, walleye can quickly reproduce and become a problem if not addressed early. They are also adapted to live in a variety of both lake and stream environments, making them very effective invaders.

Walleye have dramatically changed fish communities in the western United States. Canyon Ferry Reservoir in Montana provides a cautionary look at how walleye can eat themselves out of house and home. Illegally introduced in the 1980’s, walleye depleted the prey base in the reservoir, collapsing perch, rainbow trout, and white sucker populations over the next decade. Following the loss of prey, walleye condition and size dropped. Ultimately, angler satisfaction in the entire fishery declined due to walleye.

Lake Pend Oreille has long been known for its trophy rainbow trout and bull trout, having produced world records for both species. Along with being a popular sportfish, kokanee are the primary prey base for these trophy fisheries and therefore considered the backbone of the fishery. As history shows, a downturn in the kokanee population has reverberating effects across the Lake Pend Oreille food web.

Borrowing a page from lake trout management

Just over a decade ago, lake trout threatened to collapse the kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille. Similar to walleye, lake trout are an introduced, top-level predator in the lake ecosystem. Since 2006, Fish and Game staff and the angling community, with support from Avista and Bonneville Power Administration, have worked to manage and suppress lake trout. Angler rewards and commercial netting were the tools used to reduce lake trout abundance.

The program is a success, as kokanee are now highly abundant and the trophy rainbow trout fishery is outstanding. A similar management approach may work to limit walleye population growth but biologists want to test this strategy before committing long-term.

LAKE PEND OREILLE’S KOKANEE POPULATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY PROTECTED FROM INTRODUCED LAKE TROUT, BUT NOW FACE A THREAT FROM WALLEYE. (MATT CORSI, IDFG)

Despite being a popular sportfish that benefit fisheries elsewhere, walleye pose a significant risk to sustaining the existing Lake Pend Oreille fishery. Trout and kokanee are particularly vulnerable prey because these species have no spiny fins for protection. Based on stomach content analysis, walleye commonly feed on kokanee in the deeper parts of the lake and yellow perch in the shallower areas.

Given what is known about walleye, it is unlikely the species could be eliminated from Lake Pend Oreille entirely. Fish and Game researchers want to find effective ways to manage this new walleye population at a low enough density that does not jeopardize the existing fishery.

Walleye will be swimming in the lake into the foreseeable future. Fortunately, walleye fishing is fun and they make excellent table fare. The walleye lottery is aimed at adding to that experience with cash rewards while directly involving anglers in Lake Pend Oreille’s fishery management.

If you have questions please call the Panhandle Regional Office at (208)769-1414.

Catch Perch, Help Save Imperiled Sammamish Kokanee At Derby

A yellow perch derby will be held on Lake Sammamish tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 15, part of an effort to help out the lake’s landlocked salmon.

“They are abundant and are predators of the endangered kokanee salmon at certain life stages,” say organizers of the event being put on by Trout Unlimited. “The derby will not only help to reduce the number of perch in the lake but will educate anglers about kokanee salmon and the ongoing work to improve the watersheds and health of Lake Sammamish.”

THE FIRST ANNUAL LAKE SAMMAMISH PERCH DERBY WILL BE HELD SATURDAY, SEPT. 15, WITH CASH AND PRIZES TO BE AWARDED FOR ANGLERS BRINGING IN YELLOWBELLIES LIKE THIS ONE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Headquartered at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, the derby begins at 7 a.m. and runs till 2 p.m.

Prizes include $200 each for longest and heaviest perch, and heftiest overall catch (maximum: 25 fish).

There’s also a youth division with $50 gift certificate to a sporting goods retailer for the same three categories.

More prizes from the Snoqualmie Tribe and local businesses will be given away as well.

And according to TU, all proceeds will go towards recovering kokanee.

Those in the King County lake have been struggling for decades as the surrounding area has urbanized, and 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 last fall, prompting an emergency response from county officials.

ADULT KOKANEE SPAWN IN LAKE SAMMAMISH TRIBUTARY EBRIGHT CREEK. (ROGER TABOR, USFWS)

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

Yellow perch are a popular sportfish. According to state biologist Aaron Bosworth, the species was introduced into Lake 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 at least limit their numbers and impacts to young salmonids.

After perch were illegally stocked into Eastern Oregon’s Phillips Reservoir, state officials launched a gillnetting campaign and released piscivorous tiger muskies into the lake to try and recover the once-vaunted rainbow trout fishery.

In Northeast Washington, after a “startling increase” in perch numbers at previously clean Curlew Lake, locals organized a “Perch Purge.”

Tickets for the Lake Sammamish derby are $20 for adults and $5 for kids, $30 and $10 if you register on site at the state park tomorrow.

A GOOD TACTIC FOR PERCH IS TO FISH WORMS — OR SMALL WHITE CURL-TAILED GRUBS — ON BOTTOM, LIKE THESE ANGLERS ON LAKE WASHINGTON WERE DOING A COUPLE FRIDAYS AGO. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Lake Chelan, Area Fishing Report (5-23-18)

THE FOLLOWING FISHING REPORT WAS WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY ANTON JONES OF DARRELL AND DAD’S FAMILY GUIDE SERVICE

What’s hot is trolling for Lake Trout on Chelan early in the morning at Colyar Ledge.   Also hot is trolling between Chelan Shores and Lakeside for Lake Chelan Kokanee.  Finally, Roses Lake is smoking hot for quality Bluegill and Crappie.

PEPE HERNANDEZ SHOWS OFF PART OF A RECENT ROSES LAKE CRAPPIE CATCH. (DARRELL & DAD’S FAMILY GUIDE SERVICE)

When the wind lets you fish the early morning bite at Colyar Ledge, it is very good.  The best depths seem to be between 220 and 270 feet.  As always, fish within 3 to 5 feet of the bottom and keep your speed around 1.2 mph.

The Mack’s Lure Bead and Blade combo our guide, Jeff Witkowski has developed has been very productive.  He uses a bead combo to give the rig about a 4” long profile.  Bait this rig with a chunk of Northern Pikeminnow.  T4 Purple Glow Flatfish and Silver Horde Kingfisher Lite spoons have also been productive.

Trolling between Chelan Shores and Lakeside for Kokanee has been very productive.  Mack’s Kokanee Killer behind Sling Blades baited with shoepeg corn scented with Pro Cures Bloody Tuna or Pautzke’s Fire Corn in Natural is standard fare there.  Most people are having success working suspended fish over depths of 35 to 70 feet.

THE BROTHERS ENDRESEN POSE WITH THE RESULTS OF A FINE DAY OF FISHING FOR LAKE CHELAN KOKANEE. (DARRELL & DAD’S FAMILY GUIDE SERVICE)

Finally, Roses Lake has yielded monster catches of Bluegill and Crappie.  These are 8 to 9 inch bluegill and crappie from 11 to 13 inches.  Slip bobbers with bait or cast and retrieve small jigs will yield as many as you want to fillet…

Your fishing tip of the week is to remember scent.  I use Pautzke’s Kokanee fuel on everything as a cover scent.  Jeff is partial to Pro Cure’s Bloody Tuna.  You don’t want those fish to shy away as they charge your lure.

The kid’s tip of the week is to keep the fishing foray’s short this time of the year.  A couple of hours is plenty.  With the first big hot spell of the summer rolling in you don’t want to make it a survival test out there.  Work the hours of low light and cooler temperatures.  Mid-days this time of the year are good for swimming and staying cool inside.

 Your safety tip of the week is to keep a sharp look out for floating debris.  The lake is filling rapidly and floating loads of woody debris off the shoreline.  You don’t want to hit them!

As we approach the Memorial Day weekend, I want to remember my friends, Terry Gilden who died in the 1983 Beirut embassy bombing and Randy Shughart who died in the 1993 Mogadishu incident made famous by the movie, Blackhawk Down.  Both were members of Delta when they died.  I had the privilege to serve with them in the Rangers when we were young.  I get to do the things I love doing and spend time with my grandkids because of their sacrifice.

Dramatic Dropoff In Lake Sammamish Kokanee Population Spurs Action

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM KING COUNTY

A work group created by King County is taking emergency and long-term action to counter an alarming downward trend of Lake Sammamish kokanee, a native salmon population that appears closer than ever to extinction.

Adult kokanee Lake Sammamish’s Ebright Creek. King County officials say less than 20 were counted in tributaries last year. (ROGER TABOR, USFWS)

County and state biologists counted fewer than 20 kokanee in the most recent return, five years after more than 18,000 spawners returned from Lake Sammamish.

“The native kokanee salmon – important to our history, our culture, our environment – are facing new challenges that potentially threaten their very existence,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Together with our partners, we will take new, immediate actions to protect the iconic species and continue our long-term work to create healthier salmon habitats throughout our region.”

(KING COUNTY)

Biologists are investigating a number of possible factors that led to the most recent dramatic decline, including the increasing frequency and magnitude of harmful high temperatures and low-dissolved oxygen conditions during summers in Lake Sammamish. They are also beginning to study the compounding effects of parasites, bacteria, and related diseases during these events.

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Work Group – which King County created in 2007 to help guide strategies to protect the unique species – recommended a series of immediate and long-term actions:

  • Use specially designed traps to capture returning spawners for the hatchery program
  • Use the latest technology to protect the unique genetic stock of Lake Sammamish kokanee
  • Release young salmon into Lake Sammamish in the fall of 2019, after the lake’s temperature cools and oxygen levels rise
  • Reintroduce kokanee salmon to additional creeks in the watershed, reducing the risk that a flood or drought in a single creek will wipe out the entire run
  • Lead technical work to understand and guide strategic actions to address the underlying factors that are threatening the kokanee population

For the past decade, the Kokanee Work Group – an alliance of tribal and local governments, state and federal agencies, landowners, and residents of the watershed – has worked together with the shared goal of a healthy, stable kokanee population.

The Work Group continues to make progress, with more than 18,000 spawners returning to Lake Sammamish during the 2012-13 run. But scientists are concerned that the new challenges have the potential to wipe out the remaining kokanee population unless immediate action is taken.

Working together to restore healthy salmon habitats throughout King County

King County and other land managers are continuing their habitat-restoration work that will improve the health of the kokanee salmon population. The ongoing work includes:

  • Removing barriers to healthy habitats, such as replacing fish-blocking culverts along the East Sammamish Trail and Parkway so salmon can move up and down streams
  • Planting thousands of trees and shrubs that provide shade and cover for salmon
  • Increasing public awareness and education to reduce stormwater pollution
  • Partnering with the Issaquah Hatchery to help secure remaining kokanee population

In addition to being culturally significant, the native kokanee are important to the bio-diversity of our region. They have a unique genetic signature, having adapted to the unique Lake Sammamish ecosystem, making them impossible to replace. Genetic diversity makes the natural environment healthier and more resilient, which is particularly important in the face of climate change.

(KING COUNTY)

The kokanee run that occurs in November and December – known as “the late run” – is the only remaining native run. The two other native runs that historically occurred between late August and early November no longer occur because those kokanee have been extinct since the 2000s.

The Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group active membership includes the Snoqualmie Tribe, each of the five local jurisdictions in the Lake Sammamish watershed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, Trout Unlimited, Mid-Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Save Lake Sammamish, Friends of Pine Lake, Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, and residents who live in the watershed.

2018 Washington Trout Stocking Plan Out

How many fish are headed to your Washington lake this year?

WDFW’s just posted its 2018 statewide stocking plan, and it shows the agency will release 2.17 million catchables and 124,500 jumbos this year as well as let loose 12.9 million fingerlings and put-and-grow fish last year for harvest this spring and summer.

WHITE SALMON’S MIGUEL PEREZ AND CEDAR WILLEY LIMITED OUT AT PAMPA POND IN THE SOUTHWESTERN PALOUSE WHILE USING POWER-BAIT IN LATE APRIL OF LAST YEAR. LES LOGSDON OF NEARBY HOOD RIVER SNAPPED THE PIC. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Species include kokanee, rainbow, cutthroat, brown, brook and tiger trout, as well as triploid brookies.

All totaled, nearly 17 million trout and kokes have or will be stocked in just under 540 Evergreen State lakes, with fish headed for every county except Garfield, which according to my trusty Lakes of Washington, Volume II, Eastern Washington (second edition) had in 1973 all of 32.1 acres of lakeage.

As always, WDFW’s plan includes information on each lake’s size, fishing season, species and number of fish released, as well as which month they’ll be let loose, to give you an idea of relative density of stocking and when to hit it.

Hatchery tanker trucks will also be making the rounds ahead of the lowland lakes opener on the fourth Saturday in April, and according to the agency, anglers can again expect noticeably bigger trout than historically.

“Catchables were on average eight inches in length, but this year, they will be closer to 11 inches,” WDFW states.

And the statewide trout derby will also begin April 28. This year it features nearly $40,000 in prizes from 120 companies for those who catch any of the 1,000 specially tagged rainbows stocked in more than 100 lakes. That’s up from 2017 and well above the first derby back in 2016.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Statewide stocking plan

Weekly stocking stats

Fish Washington (info on lakes, regs, access)

Statewide fishing derby

Status Quo Management For Priest Lake Fish, IDFG Decides

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Fish and Game will continue managing Priest Lake as primarily a lake trout fishery while also protecting native cutthroat trout and bull trout in Upper Priest Lake.

Over the past several years, F&G fisheries managers have done extensive public outreach to see if a management change was warranted at Priest Lake, but found there was not clear public sentiment that favored it.

JAMIE CARR HOISTS A LARGE PRIEST LAKE MACKINAW. MANY LAKE TROUT IN THE NORTH IDAHO SEA ARE MUCH SMALLER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Simply put, fishing opportunity in the foreseeable future is likely to be about the same as it has been in recent years,” regional fish manager Andy Dux said. “Lake trout will continue to be abundant, kokanee will persist at low densities, but large in size. Cutthroat trout will also be present in moderate densities, and smallmouth bass will remain abundant.”

Fish and Game, with help from the Priest Lake Fishery Advisory Commitee, presented anglers and the public with three management choices: status quo, reducing lake trout populations to boost the kokanee fishery and other game fish species, or slightly reducing the lake trout population in an attempt to get a corresponding increase in other species.

Fish and Game did several surveys and multiple open houses to gauge public interest in changing management for the lake.

  • The random mail survey of anglers showed 52 percent did not want change vs. 48 percent who wanted change.
  • An email survey of anglers showed 45 percent did not want change and 55 percent did want change.

Resident anglers who frequently fish Priest Lake showed the most support for maintaining the existing fishery. Anglers who used to fish Priest Lake, but don’t now, were most likely to support change. In general, resident and nonresident anglers had similar opinions, and so did anglers from all the counties surveyed.

“We were clear from the start that unquestionable support for change was necessary in order for a drastic shift in management to be publicly accepted and successful,” Dux said.

Changing the management of the Priest Lake would require substantial time and resources from the department and patience from the public. Without a clear mandate for change, fisheries managers decided it was best to continue with the current management.

“We had tremendous participation from the public during this process, which gives us confidence that we understand public desires for the Priest Lake fishery,” Dux said. “The Priest Lake fishery is a public resource, so periodically it is important to ask the public how they want to see it managed. We learned there isn’t quite enough support to justify major change, but we didn’t have a good read on that until we asked the question.”

Priest Lake’s fisheries have steadily changed over time. The lake’s native sport fish are cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish. Non-native lake trout and kokanee were introduced decades ago, and for many years, kokanee supported the lake’s most popular fishery.

Kokanee were also an important food source for bull trout and lake trout, which attained trophy sizes. That balance between predators and prey fish lasted into the 1970s, then fell apart. Mysis, a small freshwater shrimp, was introduced in the late-1960s to provide more food for kokanee. Unfortunately, young lake trout feed on shrimp until the fish switch their diet to kokanee.

Mysis allowed the lake trout population to grow at the expense of kokanee, which also happened to a lesser extent as lake trout preyed on, or outcompeted, cutthroat and bull trout.

Fish and Game has curbed lake trout population growth in Upper Priest Lake to relieve pressure on those native fish.

Fisheries managers have in the past attempted to boost kokanee numbers by stocking more, but those efforts were thwarted by lake trout predation. Millions of kokanee fry, as well as hundreds of thousands of juvenile cutthroat, were stocked without a noticeable increase in the populations of either species.

While fishing at Priest Lake is different than decades ago, it’s still an attractive place for anglers who enjoy catching lake trout.

“Plenty of fishing opportunities lie ahead for Priest Lake anglers,” Dux said. “Anglers looking for unique fishing opportunities in a scenic location will find them at Priest Lake.”

 

ODFW Hosting Dec. 6 Meeting In Bend On 2018 Wickiup Koke Regs

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

ODFW invites the public to participate in a discussion regarding fish management for Wickiup Reservoir, a favorite destination for anglers seeking large brown trout and kokanee. The meeting will be held on Dec. 6 from 6-8 p.m. at Central Oregon Community College, Room 190 in the Health Career Center building.

WICKIUP RESERVOIR KOKANEE ANGLERS ARE INVITED TO AN EARLY DECEMBER MEETING IN BEND FOCUSING ON CHANGING REGULATIONS AT THE UPPER DESCHUTES IMPOUNDMENT, WHERE STEPHANIE PEMBLE CAUGHT THIS ONE WHILE TROLLING A PLUG WITH GUIDE JON WILEY. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Fishing regulations are changing at Wickiup Reservoir beginning in 2018. The “bonus” bag limit for kokanee will change from 25 to 5 and the Deschutes River Arm will close Aug. 31 (one month earlier than in 2017).

The new approach is intended to protect naturally reproducing fish populations and sustain quality recreational fishing opportunities into the future. During the meeting, ODFW will also provide insight on how current water management in the upper Deschutes River impacts the reservoir fishery.

Meeting attendees will find free parking on College Way and at the Library. The link below provides a detailed map of Central Oregon Community College campus.
https://culinary.cocc.edu/uploadedfiles/departments_/community_learning/cocc-bend-campus-map.pdf

As IDFG Mulls Priest Lake Fishery’s Future, Agency Calls On Anglers To Comment

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Fishing at Priest Lake isn’t what it used to be, which is fine for some anglers, but others would like to see it change. Fish and Game wants to know if the current management is still working, or if change is needed.

“We want the anglers to tell us what kind of fishing opportunity they want, which will dictate how we manage Priest Lake over the next 10 to 15 years,” Fish and Game Regional Fisheries Manager Andy Dux said.

IDAHO FISH AND GAME IS CALLING ON PRIEST LAKE ANGLERS LIKE JAMIE CARR — HERE WITH A 30-ISH-POUNDER CAUGHT SEVERAL YEARS AGO — FOR INPUT ON HOW THE FISHERY SHOULD BE MANAGED IN THE FUTURE. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Currently, Priest Lake is mostly a lake trout (also known as Mackinaw) fishery, and few of the once-abundant kokanee salmon remain. Native cutthroat trout are available in modest numbers, and native bull trout are nearly gone, except in Upper Priest Lake.

Historically, the lake had a larger kokanee population that supported more anglers and fishing effort, more than double the angling hours currently expended by lake trout anglers. Kokanee also provided food for lake trout and bull trout, allowing them to grow to record sizes. The current state record lake trout, a 57.5-pound monster, came from the lake in 1971, which coincided with its abundant kokanee populations.

In 2013, Fish and Game formed the Priest Lake Fishery Advisory Committee consisting of local stakeholders representing varying interests. The group worked with F&G staff over the past several years to look at Priest Lake’s current fishing opportunity, and weigh that against its potential.

The committee developed three alternatives upon which F&G is asking anglers to provide their preference.

  • Alternative 1: Continue existing management primarily for a sustainable lake trout harvest fishery and continue native fish conservation efforts in Upper Priest Lake.
  • Alternative 2: Restore a kokanee fishery capable of supporting high catch rates and harvest while enhancing native cutthroat trout and return to limited cutthroat harvest. Also, increase native bull trout to allow for a trophy  fishery, while managing for a low-density lake trout population. Continue native fish conservation efforts in Upper Priest Lake.
  • Alternative 3: Provide mixed-species fishing opportunity by reducing the lake trout population to support moderate catch rates and harvest while allowing kokanee to reach moderate densities and provide moderate catch rates. Provide conservation benefit and improve fishing for native cutthroat and bull trout. Continue native fish conservation efforts in Upper Priest Lake.

The department is hosting three public meetings in July, and you can see below for details on times and locations. F&G will also conduct a random survey of license-holders and an online opinion poll in late-summer or fall.

Why only three alternatives?

The Priest Lake Fishery Advisory Committee was tasked with developing a short list of alternatives for broader public consideration. At first, each committee member had a separate alternative, then the members worked to find common ground, make modifications and settle on three options.

Fish and Game staff provided technical guidance, which helped to focus on ideas that were most feasible and would provide the desired fishing opportunities.

Fisheries managers did not advocate for a particular option. They spent years working on the successful kokanee restoration on Lake Pend Oreille and shared with the committee some of the valuable lessons they learned in the process. Even with this guidance and experience, the alternatives for Priest Lake still face challenges and have risks.

A brief history of Priest Lake’s fishing

Priest Lake’s native sport fish are cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish. Non-native lake trout and kokanee were introduced decades ago, and for many years, kokanee supported the lake’s most popular fishery.

Kokanee not only provided great fishing for anglers, the fish were also an important food source for bull trout and lake trout, which attained trophy sizes. That balance of predators and prey fish lasted into the 1970s, then quickly fell apart. Mysis, a small freshwater shrimp, was introduced in the late-1960s to provide more food for kokanee. Unfortunately, mysis tipped the balance in favor of lake trout, which feed on shrimp until the fish grow big enough to switch their diet to kokanee.

Mysis allowed the lake trout population to grow at the expense of kokanee, whose population crashed in the mid-to-late 1970s and have never recovered. This also happened to a lesser extent as lake trout preyed on, or outcompeted, cutthroat and bull trout. That is why Fish and Game tries to curb lake trout populations in Upper Priest Lake to relieve pressure on those native fish.

Fish and Game previously attempted to boost kokanee numbers by stocking more of them, but those efforts were thwarted by predation by the lake’s abundant lake trout. Millions of kokanee fry, as well as hundreds of thousands of juvenile cutthroat, were stocked, but to no avail.

“You have too many lake trout mouths to feed, and the kokanee disappear as soon as you put them in,” Dux said.

Are lake trout bad?

It is easy to argue that the establishment of lake trout in Priest Lake was a bad thing, but having a lake trout-dominated fishery now isn’t necessarily good or bad.

Lake trout caused declines in native cutthroat and bull trout, and collapsed the popular kokanee fishery. However, the damage they caused is largely done, and what remains is a different fishery that generates about half the angler effort on Priest Lake that it historically had.

But lake trout are a desirable sport fish for many anglers, and since the 1980s, Fish and Game has managed the Priest Lake primarily for lake trout, while focusing on conserving native fish in Upper Priest Lake.

Maintaining the current fishery is an acceptable option, so long as anglers understand what fishing will be like. In the presence of lake trout, kokanee will remain depressed except in occasional years, such as 2012, when they bumped up a bit before crashing again. Good kokanee fishing will remain sporadic and fairly unpredictable.

Lake trout are far more abundant than they were historically, offering a consistent fishery with good catch rates for anglers who target them. However, frequency of the trophy-sized lake trout has dropped from decades ago because although mysis provide a stable forage, they don’t provide enough nutrients for lake trout to reach trophy sizes.

The average lake trout is currently about 15 to 25 inches, and it generally takes 10 to 20 years for them to reach those sizes. While average size has declined, these mysis-fed lake trout have bright orange filets that are excellent table fare for anglers.

For anglers who like targeting native cutthroat trout, the existing fishery will likely offer good catch rates into the future. However, the cutthroat population will provide limited or no harvest opportunity at current levels. Bull trout are essentially nonexistent in the main lake, so they will only be encountered in Upper Priest Lake, and no harvest is allowed.

Parallels between Priest and Pend Oreille

Part of the interest many anglers have in changing Priest Lake’s fish management is the success of restoring kokanee at Lake Pend Oreille. That lake had a similar situation with a collapsed kokanee fishery following an increased lake trout population.

Fish and Game did an extensive, multi-year project to dramatically reduce lake trout and afterward saw a rapid resurgence of kokanee. The kokanee fishery was reopened, and angling effort quickly expanded. Now, anglers are  catching lots of kokanee, while others are still catching a few large lake trout and Pend Oreille’s famed trophy rainbows.

“Lake Pend Oreille is a case study that provides us with the confidence we can bring back a fishery like what Priest Lake previously supported,” Dux said.

After the recovery of kokanee at Pend Oreille, some anglers asked Fish and Game to do something similar at Priest Lake. However, other anglers value having the option to either pursue kokanee at Pend Oreille, or lake trout at Priest Lake.

That’s why fisheries managers want to learn if there’s a majority of anglers who prefer one over the other that would trigger a management change at Priest. If change is preferred, managers can determine the best strategy, what it would cost, and how to pay for it.

Sometimes a happy medium isn’t so happy

The obvious answer may seem to be splitting the difference and somewhat reducing the lake trout population in an attempt to grow more kokanee. Theoretically, it’s possible and likely would produce a fishery that appeals to the greatest number of anglers.

Unfortunately, this alternative is the least predictable. It’s difficult to know how much of a reduction in the lake trout population would be needed to produce a corresponding gain in kokanee, or how long it would last.

What’s likely to occur is a short-term see-saw between those species, a fishery that is less stable, and a constant challenge of determining the right number of lake trout to remove in order to balance the predator-to-prey ratio.

Biologists know despite short-term fluctuations, long-term conditions would still favor lake trout, so it would likely require constant, and potentially expensive, management for a modest change in the ratio between lake trout and kokanee.

“We don’t have a great track record of being able to manage for a balance between predator and prey in these big lakes systems, particulary without the level of resources we had available on Lake Pend Oreille,” Dux said.

However, if there’s an overwhelming desire for that option, biologists would do their best to make it happen.

What if nothing is done?

Simply put, the lake’s fisheries will remain mostly as they are now. Fishing will be mostly for lake trout, and their average size will remain in the 15-to-25 inch range with an occasional larger one, but Priest Lake is unlikely to produce many of the trophy-sized lake trout it had in the past.

The small population of kokanee will likely persist, and in rare years when conditions favor them, there will be a modest, but short-term, blip in the population. Fish and Game and its partners will continue to protect cutthroat and bull trout in Upper Priest Lake.

“This is the most predictable and easiest alternative to implement,” Dux said. “The current fishery certainly is good in the eyes of many anglers, and if this option has broad support, Fish and Game will stay the course with existing management.”

Public involvement opportunities

Anglers and others interested in the management planning process for Priest Lake have several opportunities to comment.

Public meetings will be held:

  • Thursday, July 13, 6:30 p.m PDT in Coolin at The Inn at Priest Lake.
  • Monday, July 24, 6:30 p.m. PDT in Priest River at the Priest River Events Center, 5399 U.S. 2.
  • Thursday, July 27, 6:30 pm PDT in Coeur d’Alene at the Panhandle Region Office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave.

Later this summer, Fish and Game will mail out surveys to a randomly selected number anglers, and at the same time, make an online poll available on Fish and Game’s website (idfg.idaho.gov) for whoever wants to take it. Fisheries managers plan to make a decision on how to proceed with the lake’s management by the end of 2017.

ODFW Reverses Course On Wickiup Kokanee Bag, Season Rules

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has rescinded two emergency rules that would have removed the kokanee “bonus bag” on Wickiup Reservoir, and closed the Deschutes River arm of the reservoir a month earlier in late summer.

STEPHANIE PEMBLE CAUGHT THIS KOKANEE AT WICKIUP RESERVOIR WITH GUIDE JON WILEY. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The rules were intended to protect natural reproduction in the reservoir under new water management rules that could affect key spawning grounds.

“We’re going to take a step back to do some additional monitoring and to engage the angling community in a discussion of what the fish management options are for Wickiup under the new water regime,” said Brett Hodgson, ODFW fish manager.

Wickiup Reservoir will open to fishing on April 22 under the regulations printed in the 2017 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.