Let lake reach potential as world-class fishery

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Dead fish stink … so let’s stop intentionally killing so many. Let Lake Pend Oreille reach its potential as a world-class multi-species fishery

We must overhaul the Fishery Management Plan for the lake. The lake is now managed primarily for the benefit of kokanee and rainbow trout. Other species are ignored or intentionally destroyed. LPO is essentially two lakes in one — part is cold and deep, perfect for trout and kokanee, while the rest is shallower and warmer which provides excellent habitat for bass, walleye, perch, crappie, and pike. This lake can become a world-class warm AND cold water fishery? With the number of anglers fishing for warm-water species greatly increasing the last few years, the current FMP does not address the desires of most anglers.

IDFG data on gillnetting operations is eye-opening. In the last 10 years or so, over 130,000 game fish have been gillnetted. This includes thousands of fish between 30-44 inches, trophy fish lost to the angling public. The main target was lake trout but this spring a second campaign was initiated to suppress walleyes. Walleyes were tagged with radio transmitters so that IDFG could locate spawning grounds and slaughter them en masse.

Millions of dollars have been spent killing our fish. Can’t we spend all that money constructively on kokanee hatchery capacity expansion, longer hatchery retention to reduce mortality, or habitat improvement? Instead, the funds are spent destructively and have been for over a decade.

A Wisconsin company, Hickey Brothers, has been paid over $2.5 million and the number keeps going up. This year’s number will exceed $500,000. They have a sole-source, no-bid contract which the IDFG renews annually. An IDFG employee instrumental in awarding the contract to Hickey Bros. subsequently resigned to take a managerial position at Hickey Bros. Clearly, “very bad optics.” Kokanee and rainbows are not native — the only native gamefish in LPO are cutthroats and bull trout. Speaking of bull trout, some 15800 have been gillnetted. Not all these were killed. 5091 of them were coded as released in good condition.

No more Idaho Department of Fish genocide. It’s time for a new approach. Let’s urge IDFG to redirect their considerable skills and resources toward equitably promoting all our species. The FMP is only reviewed every 6 years and another 6 years of spending millions to deliberately cripple some of our most valuable fisheries is unacceptable. Make your opinion known during the upcoming FMP public comment period in August.

MARC BOCCIARDI

Sandpoint

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