By Jim Fredericks, IDFG Regional Fisheries Manager
LAKE PEND OREILLE — For Idaho Panhandle residents one of the highlights of 2014 was the scores of anglers who enjoyed great kokanee fishing on Lake Pend Oreille.
In response to the increase in population, the kokanee bag limit was raised last spring from six fish to 15 fish. Anglers took notice and early estimates indicate that they harvested nearly 150,000 kokanee last year.
“While that’s a lot of fish, it was still only a fraction of the total adult population,” said Regional Fisheries Manager Jim Fredericks. “According to IDFG surveys, a population of 1.4 million adult kokanee exist and that is one of the highest estimates since the 1970s.”
Lake trout predation has been the primary factor limiting kokanee recovery for more than a decade. Aggressive efforts to remove lake trout involving both the Angler Incentive Program ($15 reward to anglers) and the use of commercial netting equipment dramatically reduced the lake trout population and increased kokanee.
According to Andy Dux, IDFG principal research biologist, annual surveys indicate kokanee are poised to do well over the next few years. As kokanee density has increased in recent years, so have rainbow trout growth rates. Anglers caught more trophy rainbow trout in 2014 than they have in a long time, including many fish over 20 pounds.
IDFG will present a summary of the Lake Pend Oreille fishery recovery effort at the annual State of the Lake Thursday February 19 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Ponderay Events Center. At the event, officials will discuss fishing regulations for 2016-2018 and anglers are invited to present ideas. “Fish and Game doesn’t see a need for any major rule changes this cycle,” Fredericks said. “But we are interested in what anglers have to say.”
The main topics inclulde whether or not to make more restrictive rules on rainbow trout in order to improve the trophy fishery. For more information, contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208) 769-1414. Individuals with disabilities may request meeting accommodations at the number above through the Idaho Relay Service at 1‑800‑377‑2529 (TDD).