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Regional News

Cutthroat Trout Conservation Program Sees Encouraging Progress

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Photo courtesy of USFWS - Pacific Region via Flickr

The Coeur d’Alene tribe is hoping to revive the number of cutthroat trout in Lake Coeur d’Alene, by moving a predator fish to another part of the lake.

So far, the numbers seem to indicate the process is working.

The Coeur d’Alene tribe is in the 3rd year of a program of moving Northern Pike from one section of the lake to another.

The problematic pike were illegally introduced into the lake in the 1970’s and like to feed on the native cutthroat trout. The tribe has been trying to restore cutthroat habitat in Lake Creek, which feeds into Windy Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

In 2015, the tribe began a program of gill-netting the pike, tagging them, and moving them down the lake to Cougar Bay, a distance of 16 miles.

Tribal Fisheries biologist Angelo Vitale says the first year they caught and tagged 311 pike in Windy Bay, and last year 161. An indicator of success may be that this year they have been able to catch even less. Vitale says, “We’re having a hard time catching fish after 3 weeks, you know, somewhere in the vicinity of half of what we caught last year in 2016. So from that perspective these are encouraging results, and hopefully we can hold the pike numbers at relatively low levels.”

Vitale says even better evidence is how few of the tagged Pike have shown up in the gill-nets. “Over the period of three years now, we have seen 3 tagged fish, that we’ve captured in lake creek, so that’s less than one percent of the fish that have moved. So if they have some sort of honing capabilities on these waters of Windy Bay, it’s pretty minimal”

Vitale says it’s now hoped they will see more adult cutthroat heading upstream in Lake Creek to spawn. He says they hope to know if that’s the case in a couple of months.