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Trash Can Derby

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Lake Pend Oreille has some big fish Lake Pend Oreille has some big fish

The Captn's Table in Garfield Bay kicks off what it hopes will become an annual event

Traditionally, fishing derbies are not held this time of year in order to conserve the number and size of trophy fish in Lake Pend Oreille. Presently, however, the fishery is suffering from several introduced species that are impacting the ability of the native fish to thrive. The Captn’s Table owner Mary Thompson has been cajoled into sponsoring the first-ever “Trash Can” fishing derby on Lake Pend Oreille. It will be held over the last two weekends in June (20-21 and 27-29).  

The Captn’s Table is located along the waterfront in Garfield Bay; is a restaurant/bar open Wednesday through Saturday. “The guys,” which Thompson refers to as the group of anglers in Garfield Bay who regularly frequent the Captn’s Table, were sitting around one evening when veteran angler Roy Stokes came up with the idea for the derby. They didn’t want to make it too complicated, as Thompson has enough on her plate with the Captn’s Table management and the upcoming Halloween Derby in October that allows participants by invitation only (with a mailing list over 900!). The guys urged her to put on the Trash Can Derby when the kids are out of school and while the fishing, at least traditionally, is good for rainbow and lake trout.

Mackinaw caught on netting boat

The idea behind the name, Thompson says, is to have anglers show up at the Captn’s Table, throw their registration money in a large trash can with a flip up lid, grab a number, and go out to have a nice day fishing on the lake. For the kids, a new category has been added: small mouth bass. But for the adults, only rainbow and lake trout are eligible. Thompson says she will ask anglers to abide by “gentlemen’s rules.”

Registration for adults is $15, children 5-14 is $5; everyone must have a valid fishing license. Participating anglers will toss their entry fees (cash only) into the trash can at the Captn’s Table. Entry registration numbers will be issued. All fish must be weighed in at the Captn’s Table. Winners in the children’s division will receive prizes such as tackle boxes, rafts, and rod n’ reels; winners of the adult division will split the pot (er, trash can). Final rule: “have a great day on the lake!” says Thompson.

Thompson reports that many of the anglers she usually sees in the summer haven’t been fishing in Lake Pend Oreille. Some of them haven’t even put their boats in the water. She says she hasn’t heard too much about why this is happening. “The guys are selling their boats, selling their boat houses; people are making changes.” Thompson speculates this could be due to dissatisfaction with the fishery in Lake Pend Oreille, difficulties catching target species, the high price of fuel, or the economy in general.

“Lots of the guys in our little club are fishing Koocanusa, fishing Lake Roosevelt,” says Thompson. “They’re going other places than usual to fish.” This trend is certainly having impacts on shoreline businesses like the Captn’s Table.

The number of fish turned in through the Idaho Department of Fish & Game’s “Angler Incentive Program” is also down right now. In fact, the data suggests that the number of fish harvested and turned in is down 30 to 50 percent from this time last year. The AIP encourages anglers to fish and harvest lake and rainbow trout by offering $15 per head for lake trout any size and rainbow trout over 13 inches.

“The number of fish harvested is dependent on two things,” says regional fisheries manager Jim Fredricks. “Catch rates and the total amount of angling effort. Though we haven’t been monitoring catch rates in terms of fish caught per hour of effort, we expect (and in fact hope) to see it decline.”

Between the AIP and the netting program, about 45,000 lake trout have been harvested in the past two and half years. “So,” says Fredricks, “it would be surprising and disappointing if angler catch rates didn’t decrease.”

The second factor, angler effort, is probably being influenced by several things. “Certainly a perceived decrease in catch rates would deter some people, but the unseasonably nasty weather this spring, and the high price of fuel certainly haven’t helped,” says Fredricks.

The AIP idea was hatched out of a working group that IDFG put together two years ago to help brainstorm ways to decrease predation on kokanee salmon. The “Lake Pend Oreille Fishery Recovery Task Force” includes local angers, business owners, organizations and agencies directly involved in fishery management. They serve as a think-tank, a sounding board, and an advisory committee. Since its inception in 2006, the AIP has resulted in the harvest of just over 30,200 lake trout and 15,100 rainbow trout.  In addition to the AIP, IDFG utilizes two commercial netting boats and crews out of Wisconsin that have extensive experience fishing Lake Michigan to gill net and trap net lake trout. In the past two and half years, the netters have removed almost 15,000 lake trout. The crew recently pulled the gill nets and trap nets but will return in mid-August to resume netting, reports Fredricks.

For more information on the Trash Can Derby, call the Captn’s Table at 208-265-6351. Presently, they are open Thursday through Sunday starting at noon, but after the third week of June, the Captn’s Table will go into summer mode and be open Wednesday through Sunday. They serve a signatory brunch on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm. Our neighborhood businesses on the waterfront depend upon people utilizing their services while playing, working, or living on the lake, so every little bit helps. Besides, it’s hard to resist that local charm.

Photos: (front page) courtesy Roy Stokes. (This page) Mackinaw on netting boat, courtesy Avista.

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Author info

Kate Wilson Kate Wilson was a Project Journalist for Avista's Clark Fork Project. She has been interested in environmental issues since she was a youngster.

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