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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Lake Roosevelt net-pen trout freed prematurely

An angler reeled in this plump rainbow trout while fishing from shore at Lake Roosevelt. (Rich Landers)
An angler reeled in this plump rainbow trout while fishing from shore at Lake Roosevelt. (Rich Landers)

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 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 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 that a gentle runoff last year 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
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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