Coeur D’Alene Lake Kokanee Fishery Closes September 2
Idaho Fish and Game Director Cal Groen signed the emergency closure order Monday, August 13, requested by Panhandle regional fishery staff.
Recent surveys of the lake showed numbers of adult kokanee destined to spawn this fall are similar to the past two year’s record low numbers.
“Although juvenile abundance is promising, the low number of adult fish once again has Fish and Game and anglers concerned that there won’t be enough spawners to produce next year’s fry if we allow a fishery,” Regional Fishery Manager Jim Fredericks said.
Most kokanee spawn near Higgins Point and Beauty Bay starting in late October or November. The low number of spawners, combined with their relatively large size and tendency to congregate to the north end of the lake in September and October leave them vulnerable to over-harvest.
“The worst case scenario would be to allow excessive harvest on the depressed population and have a year-class failure,” Fredericks said. “That could set kokanee population recovery back by three to four more years.”
On a brighter note, for the second straight year, the surveys revealed improvements in younger kokanee year classes. Two-year-old kokanee improved from about 136,000 fish in 2007 to an estimated 1.7 million in 2008. One-year-old kokanee, which numbered 2.36 million in 2007, continued to improve and were estimated at 3.6 million this year.
“One and two-year-old kokanee are the primary forage for Chinook in Coeur d’Alene Lake,” Fredericks said, “so it’s very encouraging so see that predation on young kokanee seems to be improving.”
Trawl surveys show survival from 1- to 2-year-old fish increased from about 10 percent last year to 74 percent this year.
In addition to the fishery closure, Fish and Game will continue to try to reduce the predation pressure on kokanee by limiting Chinook, and for the third year does not plan to stock hatchery Chinook in the lake next summer.
Fish and Game also will monitor the number of wild Chinook spawning and evaluate whether it will be necessary to try to limit natural reproduction.
Not only do the increased kokanee survival rates indicate that attempts to decrease predation are working, the Chinook fishery seems to be telling the same story. Anglers reported fishing during the Big One Derby was the worst they’ve seen.
“I know this has been extremely frustrating for Chinook anglers,” Fredericks said. “I can only ask that they continue to recognize the importance of restoring the kokanee population before we try to rebuild the Chinook fishery.”