by Dallas Cross
Issaquah Press, June 17, 2009
If you listen carefully with your head underwater or
place a sonic microphone in Lake Sammamish
you might hear some clicking fading in and out.
No, it isn’t freshwater submarine sonar. Rather the
clicks are from acoustic tags emitting information from fish recently
caught and released. Tagging was conducted by a task team lead by the
Bellevue-Issaquah chapter of Trout Unlimited working with the King County Dept.
the WA State
Department of Fish and Game, and the Save Lake Sammamish Group.
In a continuing effort to understand different
life-cycle elements of the possibly endangered kokanee salmon-trout,
Trout Unlimited volunteers, and members of the public initiated a
program to tag several fish species in the lake. The local Trout
Unlimited chapter has initiated an “Adopt a Kokanee” fund raising
program described on its website, www.tu-bi.org.
I recently joined volunteers and kokanee sponsors to
fish in Lake
with barbless hooks for kokanee and cutthroat trout. When a fish was
caught it was placed in a container with aerated water. A cell phone
call was then made to a pick up boat to which the fish was transferred
and ferried to a fish biologist’s work station on shore.
At the work station fish were examined and fitted
with an acoustic device that broadcasts continuously. After holding
fish overnight to assure their fitness, they were released back into
the lake for monitoring.
Listening monitors have been strategically placed in
the lake to record the position of each tagged fish and its ambient
temperature. Task team members regularly download data from the
monitors for processing. Trout Unlimited plans to catch and tag
additional fish during the summer, including Northern pike-minnow (nee
squawfish) and bass
Biologists hope to fill in missing pieces of the
life cycles and habitat preferences of the tagged fish. Kokanee in the
lake are alarmingly decreasing in numbers. It is hoped that this study
might show the proportion of adults that choose to spawn on gravel
beaches in the lake instead of in creek beds.
A complimentary study is underway, manned by Trout
Unlimited volunteers. They are wrapping up a month of cold and rainy
nights when trapping, counting and releasing newly hatched kokanee fry
returning to the lake down Lewis
Creek. This census will add to the two year data base of returning fry
on the creek for biologists to determine the extent of decline of this
genetically-unique run of fish.
This spring, 187 returning kokanee fry have been
counted to date; as compared to 195 in 2008 and 2,232 in 2007 when the
survey was made daily instead of three timer per week. Only a few fry
have been seen recently and this may be close to the final tally for
My initial exposure to kokanee fishing was on Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. The kokanee were planted in the lake as forage
fish for large Kamloops
lake trout and quickly thrived such that 200 was set as the initial
fishing limit. When I fished the limit was
50 and we caught them trolling with pop gear and wedding ring lures
baited with small corn kernels, the same gear we used to capture
kokanee for the Lake
reward for successful kokanee fishing in Lake Pend Oreille
was wonderful. You could walk into a saloon in Sandpoint, Idaho, plop
50 fresh kokanee on the counter and the barman would shove back 25
nicely smoked ones with a plate of crackers. Together
with a cold beer this made a hearty lunch.
the 1970’s I fished for kokanee in Lake Sammamish
and observed the methods of Issaquah’s good old boys. On
the way to the lake they would stop at the
Darigold Creamery on Front
Street and pick up a bucket of small cheese
curds. After chumming the curds in the lake they trolled the milky
trail catching kokanee with meal worms on a spinner.
working and dedicated public and private individuals, such as those
comprising the multi-governmental
Kokanee Conservation Group have expressed a goal of once again having a
public fishery for kokanee in Lake Sammamish. I am stocking up on
crackers and beer with hope to celebrate their success.