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Thursday, April 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Jury’s out on impacts to kokanee at North Idaho’s big lakes

The kokanee limit has been increased to 15 fish at Lake Coeur d'Alene. (Rich Landers)
The kokanee limit has been increased to 15 fish at Lake Coeur d'Alene. (Rich Landers)

FISHING– High lake levels and prolonged heavy out flows this year are reason for worry about the kokanee fisheries at Pend Oreille and Coeur d’Alene lakes.

What are the impacts? “The short answer is that we don’t know, and we won’t for a couple more months,” said Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department Panhandle fisheries manager.

Read on for details on why he’s cautiously optimistic.

From Jim Fredericks:

History has shown that we can lose alarge percentage of our kokanee (andChinook in Coeur d’Alene) with extremely highrunoff years.  Inthe1996 flood, for example, welost about 90% of the age-1kokanee in Coeur d’Alene, leading to animbalance in t<<LPO Fishery Recovery Update through June 2011.pdf>> he kokanee/Chinook populations that we’ve only recently recovered from. We saw significant losses in Pend Oreille as well,thoughthe direct relation to the flood isn’t as clear. This year, anglers and fish sampling crews downstream of Albeni Falls Dam have been seeing lots of kokanee, so we do know some fish have headed downstream. SoI’d be lying if I said I wasn’tconcerned.

That said, I’m still optimistic, and here’s why—onething about 96 is that the flood(multiple floods actually)was earlier in the year as opposed to the “normal” runoff period. In fact,1997 was also a high flood year, but the flood came later in the spring.  Although we saw losses,they weren’t as highas in 1996. This year’s runoff is exceptionally late and of a long duration as opposed to an early, short duration flood.  Hopefully the effects will be much different thanthat of 1996.  Anglers fishing Coeur d’Alene Lake arefinding plenty ofkokanee throughout the lake, which is encouraging. 

All that said,we’ll have to waituntilwe do our hydroacoustic and trawl estimates in late August/early September to seehow each of the kokanee age-classes have been affected. When we get population estimates, I’llcertainly send them along.

As far as the fry releases for Pend Oreille, we were able to hold on to all of them a couple of weeks longer this year because of the high water. We stocked most (apprx.6.5 million) at Granite Creek June 28-30th, and an additional 1.4 million at Talache (June 21 and 22).  We’ll be holding another 1.5 million until mid-July for stocking at Talache as well as part of a study to look at June vs. July releases (something we’d planned to do long before we knew we were in for a big runoff).  So we’re doing all we can to keep them from washing out.  

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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