Lake Pend Oreille’s annual fishing derby for world-class trout is headed toward political correctness.
Derby organizers are touting catch and release to the 2,500 anglers headed for the big lake today.
“We have promoted catch and release for years, but we’ve never really given it enough attention,” said Bill Schaudt, president of the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club, which sponsors the derby.
“We just want to remind people how important the fishery here is and encourage them to put fish back.”
This year the club is pushing its Sportsman’s Award and has prizes for anglers who release 20-pound plus trout.
To prove the fish was caught and released, officials need to see a picture of the fish or have others in the boat sign an affidavit verifying the fish was caught.
“We will not accept any photos of fish out of the water or in a net,” Schaudt said, noting the more anglers handle a fish the less likely its chance to survive once released.
“We think this will lead to bigger and more fish out there,” he said.
The club’s goal is to improve fish habitat in the lake, and preserve the kamloop and kokanee populations. The group does it by hosting derbies. The K&K; Challenge Derby can raise up to $50,000 and pays for habitat improvement and raising hatchery trout.
The club released about 70,000 cutthroat trout into the lake last year and is collaborating with Fish and Game officials to improve spawning beds in nearby streams.
“All of the money we raise goes back into protecting the fish,” said club member Jim Watkins who pushed for the catch and release theme this year.
Watkins said the club has tried to reduce the number of trophy fish taken out of the lake the last few years.
Instead of offering daily prizes for the largest fish, the club has limited anglers to entering only one fish in the week-long contest.
Size limits also were instituted. To enter a kamloop trout for the grand prize, a new 18-foot Bayliner boat, the fish must measure at least 32 inches long.
“We don’t feel like we are damaging the fishery with the derby,” Schaudt said of the 50-year-old event.
Under the new rules, fishermen landed only 20 kamloops for last year’s contest.
“We have a lot more fish being released now than in the past. The thought is why keep a 15-pounder if you know it’s not going to win the grand prize,” Schaudt said.
The club also plans the derby at a time when many of the fish are up spawning so they aren’t catchable in the lake.
“We bring in all the anglers when there is the least amount of impact on the lake,” Schaudt said. “The fishing may be slower but people have been pent up all winter and are ready to get out on the lake.”
The derby opens today and runs through Sunday.