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2011: Fish flourish in area waters

Ray Pierre, Kalispel Tribal Council vice-chairman and lead fisheries technician, holds a northern pike from the Pend Oreille River. Photo by Jason Connor (Photo by Jason Connor)
Joe Buster, of Spokane, landed this northern pike in Riverfront Park across from the Looff Carrousel while fishing for trout on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011 -- two days before his 18th birthday. He said the fish measured 42 inches long. (Courtesy Buster / The Spokesman-Review)

Fish generally thrived in an abundance of water flooding the region in 2011.

Although anglers lost a full month of the fishing season to high water on rivers such as the Clark Fork, fish apparently prospered, especially in lakes, some of which were brim full for the first time in years.

But there were exceptions.

To accommodate the runoff from the huge snowpack, Lake Roosevelt was drawn down lower than it’s been in years, making boat launching difficult or impossible in April and May. Even worse, a high percentage of Roosevelt’s big rainbows and kokanee apparently was flushed over Grand Coulee Dam and out of the Lake Roosevelt system.

Banks Lake was a puddle compared with its normal volume as a dam maintenance project lowered the lake level up to 30 feet in a drawdown starting Aug. 1 and running through the fall and early winter.

Chapman Lake had plenty of water, but anglers were shut out for the first time in decades by former resort owners who closed the access.

Meanwhile, steady high flows down the Columbia system may have contributed to record numbers of pink salmon coming up over Bonneville Dam.

For the first time in at least 30 years, the Wenatchee and Methow rivers were open for anglers to pursue a strong run of coho salmon.

Indeed, anglers in the lower Columbia set records for catches of summer steelhead and summer chinook as well as for the number of angler trips. Biologists credit the combination of good runs and high, cool flows.

Those flows likely did a good job of ushering a high percentage of steelhead and salmon smolts down the Snake and Columbia systems to the Pacific Ocean in June. Fishing could be very good when those fish start returning in two years.

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