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Ready for Spring

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It's time to go fishing... for kokanee!


Spring is here... I think? It’s a time of a renewal and the woods are coming alive again, the trilliums are blooming, and the morels are popping through the warming soil.  It’s a wonderful time to spend in the woods watching the transformation. If you’re not into bear, turkey or mushroom hunting, then dust off those rods and hit your favorite fishing hole.

The fish are biting if you are hitting the right spots, and at the right times.  If not, at least it’s an excuse to get out of the house and procrastinate on the honey-do list. There is a great variety of fish in the sloughs and backwaters this time of year including crappie, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass, perch, and bullhead catfish. It’s a great opportunity to get the kids out, teach them the fundamentals of fishing and have instant positive reinforcement when they catch a fish! Additionally, some of those fish can arguably be the best-tasting fish we have around, and you can teach the kiddos how to fillet a fish properly. Anybody can hack away at a trout and call it filleting, but you need some skill to get the best meat out of a crappie, perch, or bullhead catfish!

While I’m on the topic of fishing, there’s some exciting news on the kokanee fishery in Lake Pend Oreille!  

Continued improvement of the Lake Pend Oreille kokanee population has our fisheries biologists considering an increase to the harvest limit. The kokanee population has responded well to intensive efforts to reduce predators. Lake trout have been dramatically reduced thanks to angler harvest and lake trout netting efforts, and as a result, survival of juvenile kokanee has increased and the population has significantly increased.  

Jim Fredericks, our Regional Fishery Manager, announced we are considering an increase from the current limit of 6 to the general regional limit of 15 per day. Last fall, an estimated 1.2 million mature kokanee survived to spawn, which made it one of the highest spawner returns seen in the past 40 years and was about a four-fold increase from 2012. All indications suggest there should be even more mature fish in 2014. The kokanee population is back to being at or above the level it was in the 1980s and ‘90s when the kokanee limit was 25 per day, so it appears the fisheries can at least support a 15-fish daily limit.

We monitor the kokanee population by midwater trawl netting and hydroacoustic surveys. The population surveys, in combination with an angler creel survey running throughout 2014, will enable biologists to closely monitor the population as well as angler harvest.  If for some unseen reason the kokanee population experiences a dramatic crash, we can reverse the daily limit and adopt a more conservative daily limit. 

If you have any comments regarding the change in bag limit please contact Jim Fredericks via email at jim.fredericks(at)idft.idaho.gov, before May 10. If an increased limit is supported by anglers, IDFG staff will present the idea to the Commission at their May 14-16 meeting. If approved, the rule would be effective immediately so stay tuned.

For those of you who still have hunting on the brain, don’t forget May is the month to get those applications for controlled hunts submitted. The period to get the applications in for controlled hunts on deer, elk, pronghorn, fall black bear, and fall turkey starts May 1 and ends June 5. You can apply at any IDFG license vendor, and IDFG office, and with a credit card by calling 1-800-55HUNT5, or online at our website fishandgame.idaho.gov.

I know I remind you all every spring about bears and their very predictable behavior. If you invite them to a free meal on your property by leaving garbage, bird feeders, dog food, and chicken coops out and available, they will come and cause property damage, along with the possibility of human injury. Only you can stop the bears from engaging in harmful behavior by removing any attractants. Now is the time to bear proof your home. I don’t care where you live in Bonner County, it’s bear country! For the newcomers, get used to the bears and learn to live with them. For pointers on things you can do to live harmoniously with local wildlife. please call the Regional Fish and Game office in Coeur d’ Alene at 769-1414.

Get a copy of the regulations, register your boats and ATV’s, grab the kids, and head out the door for some fun.  Remember to obey the laws, respect the land, and please clean up after yourselves.  See you out there!

Leave No Child Inside... take ‘em fishing.

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

fishing, kokanee, The Game Trail, Lake Pend Oreille fishery

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