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Field reports: Roosevelt net-pen trout freed prematurely

FISHING – This year’s late runoff and deep drawdown at Lake Roosevelt has delivered a double whammy to trout and kokanee anglers.

The prolonged increased flows and the reservoir’s low water levels likely have flushed significant numbers of carryover trout over Grand Coulee Dam, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers say.

And starting in mid-May, the upcoming crop of some 700,000 young rainbows had to be released prematurely as they were dying in their net pens.

Normally the fish are raised in the net pens until spring runoff is under control and the reservoir has filled to within 10 feet or so of full pool, said Chris Donley, district fish biologist.

But the prolonged low water levels apparently stressed the 8-inch-long trout by reducing the room they had in the net pens, Donley said.

“The protocol is to release them if we’re losing more than 2 percent of the fish a day,” he said. “They went out a little undersized, but not sick, so at least the have a chance.”

Anglers trolling the surface have been hooking the young fish. But many trout have been seen dead along the shores and even more are expected to be flushed out of the system.

“Our expectation is that catch rates will be much lower for the rest of the year,” Donley said, noting a gentle runoff the past two years promoted excellent trout fishing that continued through the winter and spring.

“But I’m cautiously optimistic because we’ve been surprised before. You never know for sure.”

Rich Landers

Chapman Lake gate still closed to public

FISHING – Public access to Chapman Lake south of Cheney continues to be blocked by a gate at the Chapman Lake Resort.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department stocked the lake with about 100,000 small kokanee fry last year – plus 7,500 catchable-sized rainbow trout and 50 larger rainbows this spring – in anticipation of the public being allowed to use the lake, the state hatchery plan shows.

“After the fish were stocked, family members (who own the resort) said they were having some difficulties and they wouldn’t be able to open,” said John Whalen, WDFW regional fisheries manager. “We’ve heard that they’ve selectively let a few people in.”

If a long-term agreement for public access can’t be worked out, the state will have to discontinue stocking fish, he said.

Although there’s state land at one end of the lake, developing a public access would be years down the road, he said.

Rich Landers

Bonner County tops for bear complaints

WILDLIFE – Bonner County logged 770 complaints about bears last year – 740 more than any other county in Idaho, according to Idaho Fish and Game records.

Question is: Does North Idaho have a bear problem, or a problem with human habits in bear country?

Pointers for living in bear country will be offered Thursday, 5:30 p.m., at Ivano’s Wine and Martini Bar in Sandpoint. 

Becky Haag, Idaho Department of Fish and Game environmental biologist, will discuss the current status of bears in the area and give tips on how to bear-proof homes and campsites.

Rich Landers