Sept. 3, 2015
LA GRANDE, Ore. – Effective immediately, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will relax fishing restrictions on 10 water bodies in Northeast Oregon scheduled to be chemically treated this fall to remove unwanted fish species.
The agency plans to treat lakes and ponds in Baker, Union, Umatilla and Wallowa counties to remove unwanted fish in order to improve trout fisheries. Under the new temporary regulations, there are no daily bag or possession limits, no size limits and anglers may harvest fish by hand, dip net and angling.
“By relaxing the rules, we hope to give people the opportunity to harvest these fish before we remove them,” said Kyle Bratcher, ODFW fish biologist in Enterprise.
The new temporary rules will apply to Kinney Lake (Wallowa Co.), Peach, Lugar and Boundary ponds (Union Co.), and Keyhole, Granite Meadows, Goldfish, Yellowjacket and Windy Springs ponds (Umatilla Co). These are in addition to Balm Creek Reservoir, where fishing restrictions have been lifted since July.
The temporary regulations will be in effect until 12:01 a.m., Sept. 26 when these water bodies will close to all fishing during chemical treatment. These fisheries will re-open on Jan. 1, 2016 and will be re-stocked with hatchery trout in the spring.
“The three-month closure gives us some flexibility in scheduling the treatments, and provides ample time for detoxification,” said Tim Bailey, ODFW fish biologist in La Grande.
The closure also is a precautionary measure to keep the public from harvesting fish that survive the rotenone treatment. “Even though rotenone is not known to be toxic to humans, we take a conservative approach in order to protect the public,” Bailey said.
The agency plans to begin the treatments with Balm Creek Reservoir on Sept. 29, and end with the ponds on the Umatilla National Forest in mid-October. Further public announcements will be made leading up to these treatments.
The goal of these rotenone treatments is to remove illegally introduced brown bullhead catfish, largemouth bass, black crappie and/or goldfish. According to Bratcher, many of these water bodies have been overpopulated by these illegally introduced fish, which compete with rainbow trout thus reducing fishing opportunities. In many cases these introduced fish have become stunted themselves due to overcrowding.
More important, Bratcher added, these fish can become a source population for other illegal introductions.
“It’s not just about improving the treated fishery; it’s also about protecting nearby fisheries,” he said.
ODFW has successfully treated several other water bodies throughout the state in recent years including Diamond, Mann and South Twin lakes, and a number of small ponds. These fisheries have been greatly improved by removing many of the same species targeted in the Northeast Oregon projects.
“We have demonstrated that rotenone projects can improve trout fishing and increase angler satisfaction in these fisheries,” Bratcher said.
Rotenone is often used to remove undesirable fish species because it is an affordable and effective treatment with little threat of long-term environmental damage. Rotenone has been approved as a fish toxicant by the Environmental Protection Agency. At the concentrations used to kill fish, rotenone is not toxic to humans, other mammals or birds. It breaks down completely in the environment and will not be detectable within weeks of treatment.