Catch, Keep & Eat
The newly formed Citizens Advisory Committee, which is advisory to the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, met recently in Sandpoint to prepare recommendations to the Department to assist in recovering the kokanee population in Lake Pend Oreille.
Research conducted by the University of Idaho over the last three years prove that the mysis shrimp is not the cause of the kokanee decline. These studies show the shrimp and the kokanee only eat the same species of zoo plankton during the warm water months when there is an abundance of zoo plankton for both. During cold water months kokanee and shrimp do not target the same species of zoo plankton, therefore no food competition exists.
Kokanee are counted using an echo sounder several times a year to determine kokanee survival. These counts show that predatory fish are eating up to 80% of the age 1 to 3 kokanee. No prey species can survive such heavy predation.
It is imperative to increase the survival of kokanee fry to prevent a total collapse of these prey fish. Rainbow, lake trout and Bull trout are the primary predators. The Bull trout is protected under the Endangered Species Act and no harvest or disturbance of Bull trout can be done. Predator reduction or kokanee fry production increases are the only options left open to work toward kokanee recovery. The number of adult kokanee is already so low that increases from natural spawning are unlikely to occur. Higher winter water levels would help increase the fry survival, but that issue is now in the courts and beyond IDF&G control. Kokanee eggs from outside sources are very hard to find. Therefore the CAC is recommending two actions be taken as soon as possible.
The first is to ask all sport fishermen to change their conservation mind-set from “catch and release” to “catch, keep and eat.” Until the kokanee are again in abundance, the CAC is asking sport fishermen to help conserve the kokanee by keeping all the rainbow and lake trout they catch. There are no limits on lake trout and the rainbow limit has been raised to six fish per day. Nothing can be done to reduce predation caused by the bull trout.
The CAC is asking IDF&G to allow for a limited number of commercial licenses to be issued to harvest lake trout with rod and reel gear. In addition CAC is asking for regulatory changes that would allow anglers who catch lake trout to be able to sell limited quantities of the fish to a commercial licensee.
Hobart Jenkins is a Bayview resident and the Chairman of the Citizen's Advisory Committee. He is a former President of Spokane Community College and is active in fish and wildlife issues.