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Home arrow Sports arrow Outdoors & Rec arrow New tactic evaluates fish stocking on Wallowa Lake

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New tactic evaluates fish stocking on Wallowa Lake

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is releasing more than 2,000 tagged fish into Wallowa Lake to monitor how well they overwinter and how many are caught and where they are caught on the lake. Fish Biologist Jeff Yanke holds up a future trophy rainbow. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is releasing more than 2,000 tagged fish into Wallowa Lake to monitor how well they overwinter and how many are caught and where they are caught on the lake. Fish Biologist Jeff Yanke holds up a future trophy rainbow. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
 

WALLOWA LAKE — On a drizzly early summer morning the fish hatchery stocking truck backs down the boat launch at the south end of Wallowa Lake. A large hose is guided into a boat releasing hundreds of tagged trout into the hull as it takes on water.

The boat is specially made to stock fish, said Jeff Yanke, Enterprise fish biologist for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The hatchery truck finishes its release, the driver reels in the hose, and heads off to stock Kinney Lake on Tucker Down Road outside of Joseph. Yanke starts the boat and guides it to the southeast corner of the lake, past a long-established eagle’s nest on the shore, to distribute 400 tagged rainbow trout. He said the department releases 40,000 trout into the lake each year in May, June, July and August, but this year a pilot program was started to track the tagged fishes’     movement.

 Yanke said there are eight designated release sites on the lake and the experiment is already seeing interesting results. Tagged fish released at the south end of the lake have been caught six miles north at the Wallowa Lake Dam.

Yanke turns the boat in counter-clockwise circles as he opens a hatch at the stern of the boat. This motion helps the fish swim out into the open water. He straightens the boat and steers it farther away from the boat launch before repeating the fish release.

When anglers catch a tagged fish they are asked to fill out a form either online, at the Enterprise field office, or they can fill one out at the Wallowa Lake Marina, said Yanke.

“The Marina has been really amazing for us,” Yanke said. “We expected it to get a lot of questions so we left forms so they can report tags right there. It’s been a huge help getting feedback.”

Until now the Department hasn’t had a good way to tack the benefits of their stocking program. Wallowa Lake was chosen as one of three in Oregon to release the tagged trout and Yanke said it has the more fish than any lake in Eastern Oregon.

“We’re trying to find out how many hold over to next year,” said Yanke.

Monitoring catch success using creel surveyors is expensive, said Yanke. This program gets fishers more actively involved, which, in turn, helps the Department make management objectives.

Yanke said the program was modeled after one started by Idaho Fish and Game. “It’s been wildly successful. They’ve released tens of thousands of tagged fish.”

He said they won an American Fisheries Society award for their program and biologists in Oregon pushed to follow suit. “It’s a lot of fun and we are learning so much from the public.”

For the full story, see Friday's issue of The Observer

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