Tag Archives: lake roosevelt

Feds Say Sturgeon Too Tough On Roosevelt Fish-cleaning Stations, But In Doing So Offer Bad Advice

Sturgeon have had to be tough critters to stick around for hundreds of millions of years, and the recent opener on Lake Roosevelt is proving once again how durable these ancient fish are.

Well, sort of.

IT WAS AN “AWESOME DAY” FOR JANICE HARVEY, WHO CAUGHT THIS STURGEON ON LAKE ROOSEVELT FOLLOWING THE RECENT OPENER. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Federal managers on the Upper Columbia reservoir say macerators at their seven fish-cleaning stations aren’t quite up to the task of handling anglers’ diamondsides.

“Our fish-cleaning stations, located at Spring Canyon, Keller Ferry, Fort Spokane, Porcupine Bay, Hunters, Gifford Ferry, and Kettle Falls, are better suited for the softer bones of other fish species such as trout, kokanee, bass, and walleye,” says a June 6 press release from the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

They’re asking fishermen to take their catches home and then clean and dispose of the carcasses.

However, their release can also be read that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending anglers fillet their fish on the lake and dump the rest into deep water.

That set off alarm bells at WDFW’s Spokane office, where the reaction this morning ran along the lines of, “Say what?!?!?!?”

It wasn’t immediately clear where Lake Roosevelt NRA got their information from, but because the fishery is governed by a slot limit designed to protect younger and older sturgeon, if catches are cut up on the water, there would be no way for WDFW officers to confirm fish are legal-sized.

“Anglers need to bring them off the lake intact and take them home at which point they can clean them and dispose of the remains,” WDFW spokesman Madonna Luers told Rich Landers at the Spokesman-Review.

The fishery is a unique opportunity with around 10,250 sturgeon available for harvest this year and over the coming nine.

Lake Roosevelt below the China Bend Boat Ramp was opened in late May, the first time in around 30 years.

It’s the result of state and provincial hatchery programs to reverse the decline of the species here. According to WDFW, survival rates have been higher than expected, leading to a surplus of fish.

Daily limit is one, with an annual limit of two.

As with sturgeon fisheries elsewhere, there’s a slot limit: Only fish with a fork length — the measurement from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail fin — of 38 to 63 inches can be retained.

While the most of the lower reservoir is currently open, the spawning sanctuary from China Bend to the British Columbia border is closed until Aug. 1.

Both sections close after Sept. 17.

FDR Pike Numbers Up As State-Tribal Removal Efforts Intensify

Ten times more “nightmare fish” — northern pike — than last March were caught earlier this month on Lake Roosevelt, including a 20-pound hen carrying eggs that made up roughly a tenth of its body weight.

The unwanted invasive species is the target of stepped-up gillnetting by the Colville and Spokane Tribes, and removal by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staffers, who say that this year through March 28, 338 have been taken out of the large reservoir at the head of the Columbia River in Washington.

COLVILLE TRIBES MEMBER ROBERT THOMAS HOLDS UP THE 20-POUND FEMALE NORTHERN PIKE GILLNETTED EARLIER THIS MONTH OUT OF LAKE ROOSEVELT. (BRYAN JONES, COLVILLE TRIBES)

The worry is that, just as pike got loose out of the Pend Oreille River system into Roosevelt, they’ll get out of FDR and into the salmonid-rich Columbia below Lake Rufus Woods.

Managers are increasing their efforts to head them off as they inexorably move that way.

“To date, northern pike appear to be distributed primarily in the Kettle Falls area  — near the mouths of the Colville and Kettle Rivers, Singers Bay, Evans — but juveniles were caught further south, near Bradbury launch, for the first time recently,” says Bill Baker, a WDFW fisheries biologist based in Colville.

He says that 2016 saw recruitment of a “measurable year-class,” along with “confirmed successful spawning” in the Kettle and probably Lake Roosevelt too.

A NORTHWEST POWER AND CONSERVATION COUNCIL IMAGE SHOWS MULTIPLE YEAR-CLASSES OF NORTHERN PIKE GILLNETTED OUT OF THE COLVILLE RIVER EARLIER THIS MONTH, “EVIDENCE THE POPULATION IS GROWING,” ACCORDING TO A BLOG POST FROM THE REGIONAL GROUP. (COLVILLE TRIBES)

“Many of the northern pike caught thus far this year are from that year class, around 16 to 17 inches on average. However, there are some large adults present, as well,” Baker says.

According to a mid-March Northwest Power and Conservation Council blog by spokesman John Harrison and headlined simply “Nightmare Fish,” the gonads on that hefty hen weighed 2.2 pounds and were “stuffed” with eggs.

WDFW began looking for concentrations of pike in February for the tribes to net this month. Gillnetting now gets ahead of the May-June spawn.

Baker says that this year’s netting effort is larger than 2016’s, so it’s hard to compare overall removal numbers from year to year, but he feels the catch rate is up, probably because of more pike in the lake but also a better understanding of where they like to hang out.

“Last year’s efforts informed where and when to net this year,” he says.

Bycatch has been “low,” he says, with walleye and redband rainbows comprising 8 and 5 percent of the overall haul.

Those fish are released alive as much as possible, and that’s being helped by cold water temperatures, he says.

If there’s good news, it’s that removal efforts in the Pend Oreille River reservoirs by the Kalispel Tribe appear to have pinched off those waters as a source of pike for FDR through entrainment during high-runoff years, such as 2011, when they first came to widespread attention after an angler caught one near Kettle Falls.

But unfortunately, the Canadian Columbia now has established pike schools, and “in-reservoir recruitment appears to now be the major driver for population expansion within Lake Roosevelt,” says Baker.

Northerns likely originally came down the Pend Oreille from the Clark Fork and Northwest Montana, where they were illegally introduced over the continental divide by bucket biologists.

State, tribal and Columbia system overseers are all on board with getting rid of as many pike as possible.

“We need to stop pike from moving downstream now,” Colville Tribes principal biologist Holly McLellan told Harrison, who also quoted Guy Norman, a former WDFW regional director and now member of the power council, as saying, “This is something that could have significant ecological effects on the lake, and on fisheries both in the lake and downriver. We need to get on top of it.”

Not only will putting a halt to northern’s southerly advance down the Columbia system help prevent damage to FDR’s stellar trout, kokanee, walleye and bass fisheries and ESA-listed salmon and steelhead populations below Rufus (the tribes also want to reintroduce stocks above Grand Coulee) but also provide fewer pike for jackasses to illegally move around, like the one that turned up in Lake Washington earlier this winter.

Baker says that gillnetting and monitoring will continue through spring.

And Harrison reports that crews will target the shallows this fall to remove and assess juvenile populations, while eDNA testing stations downstream will tell tribal and state monitors if pike are closing in on Grand Coulee Dam or getting into the Columbia Basin Reclamation Project.