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Kokanee numbers up in northern Idaho lake

Published on December 4, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on December 4, 2012 7:49AM

The Associated Press

HOPE, Idaho (AP) -- Northern Idaho's Lake Pend Oreille is seeing a rebound in kokanee, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said.

The Coeur d'Alene Press (http://bit.ly/TEAKdw ) reports that about 200,000 of the land-locked sockeye salmon have returned to Granite Creek to spawn this winter. That means next year anglers will be able to keep some of the kokanee they catch at Lake Pend Oreille for the first time since 1999.

Workers with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game use a fish trap at Granite Creek near the town of Hope to harvest the kokanee eggs. So far, they've collected more than 10.5 million eggs, and they expect to collect a total of about 14 million.

That's a big increase compared with 2007 and 2008, when a smaller number of kokanee returning to Granite Creek only gave up 500,000 eggs.

"Our ultimate goal is to bring the fishery back for the sportsman," said John Rankin, manager of the Cabinet Gorge Hatchery in Clark Fork, where the eggs are taken. The hatchery was built to mitigate fish losses from Albeni Falls Dam.

The fertilized eggs are hatched and then fed until June, when they are released as 2-inch fry into a stream near Granite Creek and along the lake shore. About 4 percent eventually return to Granite Creek to spawn.

Wildlife officials also have tried to boost kokanee numbers by reducing the number of lake trout, also called mackinaw, in Lake Pend Oreille. Lake trout are voracious predators that eat kokanee and other fish. In recent years officials have netted lake trout and offered anglers incentives to kill them.

Calvin Fuller, sporting goods manager at Big R of Ponderay and a regular fisherman on Pend Oreille, said the 10 million-plus kokanee eggs already harvested this year is great news for fishermen.

"That's a huge year," Fuller said.

He said fishermen on the lake hope improvements in kokanee populations mean the state will soon add some pure-strain rainbow trout from Canada to Pend Oreille to help re-establish the trophy rainbow trout fishery. Rainbow trout populations, which depend on a healthy kokanee population, are now depressed, Fuller said.


Information from: Coeur d'Alene Press, http://www.cdapress.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


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