Tag Archives: PEND OREILLE RIVER

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.

Fight Against Bucket Biologists Going High Tech

Potential good news from the fight against bucket biologists.

Montana fishery biologists using something called “forensic geochemistry” have figured out the source and timeframe that walleye were moved into Swan Lake, in the state’s northwestern corner.

OTOLITHS, A BONE IN THE EAR OF FISH, CONTAINS CHEMICAL SIGNATURES THAT PROVIDES CLUES ABOUT WHERE THE ANIMAL CAME FROM. (OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, FLICKR)

And genetic material from northern pike in Northeast Washington is pointing to a different source than the widely assumed one.

Whether or not the new tools help lead to arrests is a good question, but they will at least serve as a warning shot across the bow of those who would illicitly move fish around.

IN THE CASE OF THE WALLEYE, managers have concluded that at least two fish were driven over the continental divide on a 200-mile journey that occurred in the spring of 2015, according to a report in the Columbia Basin Bulletin last month.

“Our findings now allow investigators to look at fishing license sales, webcams, and boat registrations around the Lake Helena area for the time period when the walleye were illegally introduced,” Samuel Bourett, an FWP researcher, told the emailed newsletter.

The species is native to the Mississippi River and lower Missouri River basins, but as was common earlier last century walleye were moved westward for fishing opportunities.

Nowadays, the tide has turned against moving nonnative fish — or at least nonsterile ones — into new locations, though decades of population growth provide a ready reservoir for those who want to continue the practice.

But fishery officials are fighting back with increasingly sophisticated means.

In early 2016, several months after two walleye were gillnetted at Swan, Bourett’s agency and conservation groups offered a $30,000 reward for information on the illicit stocking of the lake, which provides critical habitat for Endangered Species Act-listed bull and cutthroat trout.

They also began examining the otoliths of the fish, looking for chemical signatures that could pinpoint where they came from.

In 2017 they built a database with fish from 13 popular Montana walleye waters.

Out of that they determined the origin of the Swan Lake release.

“Core to edge geochemical profiles of [two types of strontium] and (strontium/calcium) ratios in the walleye otoliths revealed that these fish had been introduced to Swan Lake within the past growing season, and their geochemical signature matched that of walleye sampled from Lake Helena, Montana, located 309 road kilometres away,” write Bourett and Niall Clancy in a paper recently published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Illegally stocking fish in Montana is punishable with fines running from $2,000 to $10,000, the loss of all license privileges and cleanup costs.

WDFW BIOLOGIST DANNY GARRETT SCOWLS WHILE HOLDING THE 13.5-POUND GRAVID HEN WALLEYE HE NETTED OUT OF LAKE WASHINGTON IN 2015. (DANNY GARRETT, WDFW)

Well to the west, in 2012 the otoliths of walleye from Lakes Roosevelt and Moses and Potholes and Scooteny Reservoirs were compared with those from Lake Washington fish for a common chemical signature but no match was found, according to state fisheries biologist Danny Garrett, who himself netted half a dozen more in 2015.

“I think there is merit in doing more of this work,” he notes.

THEY’RE NOT THE ONLY ONES TRACING where invasive fish are coming from. Dr. Kellie Carim works for the U.S. Forest Service’s National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation out of Missoula, and she’s looking into pike.

Another Upper Midwest transplant, northerns are also popular with fishermen but present a nightmare threat for Northwest salmon and steelhead managers as the species has crept its way down the Pend Oreille River and into Lake Roosevelt and is now at the mouth of the Spokane River, according to a recent story. Anecdotal reports from anglers put them further down, in Lake Rufus Woods.

With funding from a USDA Tribal College Initiative Grant, Carim has come to a rather interesting conclusion about where many of those pike actually originated.

“The history we’ve told ourselves, the simplest explanation, is that the fish are flowing downstream from Western Montana,” she says.

That is, from Noxon Reservoir, down the Clark Fork River into Idaho and through Lake Pend Oreille before arriving in Washington.

“However, what the genetic analysis says is that those in Lake Roosevelt and the Pend Oreille River are closely related to those in the Couer d’Alene drainage,” Carim says.

Rather than taking an aquatic highway, they most likely took a paved one, in a livewell up US 95 to I-90 to either Idaho 41 or US 2 to Washington 20 and the river.

From there, their population built and the theory has been that in high water years they were entrained out of the Pend Oreille into the Columbia River in British Columbia and then Lake Roosevelt.

DAVEY McKERN HOLDS ONE OF THE FIRST NORTHERN PIKE CAUGHT IN LAKE ROOSEVELT. THE SPECIES HAS BEEN LARGELY CONCENTRATED OFF THE MOUTHS OF THE KETTLE AND COLVILLE RIVERS, BUT SOME HAVE BEEN FOUND DOWNSTREAM AT THE MOUTH OF THE SPOKANE RIVER, ACCORDING TO A NORTHWEST POWER AND CONSERVATION COUNCIL REPORT. (DAVEY MCKERN)

Carim, whose work aims to identify where the pike are coming from to stop the flow into Eastern Washington, adds that DNA from other Upper Columbia and Pend Oreille fish aren’t in the database, meaning there are more potential sources out there too.

“We definitely need to collect more samples. Some fish are aren’t ‘assigning’ very well,” she says.

Next week, she will be presenting before the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on pike.

Meanwhile, state and tribal managers have been teaming up to take a hammer to the species.

According to a recent NWPCC article by John Harrison, 18,000 have been scooped out of the Pend Oreille River by the Kalispel Tribe and another 1,800 have been removed from Lake Roosevelt by the Colville and Spokane Tribes and WDFW. Anglers have also turned in more than 1,000 heads for cash through a Colville Tribes program. And hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to protect the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars put into salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin.

While bucket biologists will likely continue their illegal pike and walleye stockings, the odds are now increasing that someone will get caught.