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2012 fishing: Just one record in ample year

Randy and Chase Plischke of Spokane with their mixed bag of Chinook and Sockeye after fishing the Upper Columbia River Brewster Pool. (Anton Jones)
Randy and Chase Plischke of Spokane with their mixed bag of Chinook and Sockeye after fishing the Upper Columbia River Brewster Pool. (Anton Jones)

The state record tiger trout caught in Spokane County’s Fish Lake in 2009 was bested in April by a 15.04-pounder caught in Chelan County’s Roses Lake.

As notable as the lunker trout is the fact that it was the only record fish of any species reported in Washington in 2012.

But what they lacked in bragging rights for size, anglers enjoyed bounties in some areas, including good returns of summer chinook and a record return of sockeye that attracted huge crowds of boaters to the upper Columbia River.

Perhaps the most shocking fisheries development of the year is an initiative that will be finalized in 2013 as Washington and Oregon work out details of a proposed ban on commercial gillnets for salmon and steelhead in the lower Columbia River.

Meantime, millions of dollars were spent by the Bonneville Power Administration and utilities such as Avista as well as other federal agencies on fisheries restoration projects related to dams throughout the region. Here are just a few examples:

• A Kootenai River habitat restoration project and nutrient enhancement effort, coordinated by the Kootenai Tribe and Idaho Fish and Game, was boosting the trout fishery in Idaho downstream from the Montana state line.

• Colville Tribe fisheries researchers used nets to reduce walleye predation on redband trout and kokanee migrating out of the Sanpoil River into Lake Roosevelt.

• Lake Pend Oreille fish managers paid to have lake trout removed in the ongoing effort to restore the kokanee population.

• Milltown Dam Superfund site cleanup officially ended for the six-year, $100 million Clark Fork River restoration project upstream from Missoula.

• The continuing effort to remove dams on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park already is allowing salmon to make their way to historic spawning grounds.

• Kalispel Tribe and Washington Fish and Wildlife crews removed about 87 percent of the northern pike in the Box Canyon portion of the Pend Oreille River.

The demise of the Pend Oreille’s invasive northern pike fishery was met with mix feelings by anglers. Fish managers said the pike had to be dramatically reduced to protect native fisheries, including salmon and steelhead downstream in the Columbia River.

But Pend Oreille County anglers lost the first big reason in their lifetimes to go fishing in the Pend Oreille River.

Indeed, they also lost a shot at the biggest pike to be recorded in Washington.

An egg-laden northern pike weighing 38 pounds was gillnetted in Tacoma Slough and recorded by a Kalispel Tribe fisheries crew. The Washington record for the exotic species is 34.06 pounds.