Pike play havoc with fish stocking

Posted: Friday, January 13, 2006

Fish fingerlings that would have been used to stock Scout Lake will be withdrawn for use in other central Kenai Peninsula lakes now that northern pike have been discovered there, leaving the lake to become little more than a pike fishery, said Patty Berkhahn, a fisheries biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“We would just be feeding the pike,” Berkhahn said, explaining why the lake will no longer be stocked. “Fishermen may get lucky and catch a larger coho or larger trout, but it’s predominantly a pike fishery now.”

Fish and Game biologists discovered pike in Scout Lake in September while sampling the lake for coho salmon and rainbow trout. Lakes are sampled approximately every two to three years and from 2003 to 2005 the number of salmon found when sampling Scout Lake declined from 88 to two. The rainbow trout, first stocked in Scout Lake in 2003, did not produce the results biologists expected.

“They should have been good catching size (by 2005), but we didn’t catch any,” said Berkhahn, who also is the author of Fish and Game’s draft plan for stocking fish in the area.

In 2005, Scout Lake was stocked with 9,500 coho salmon fingerlings and 7,000 rainbow trout fingerlings, but this year the fingerlings that would have been released in Scout Lake will be divided among other lakes in the central peninsula region.

The coho salmon fingerlings will be released in Sport, Upper Summit, Elephant and Island lakes. The rainbow trout fingerlings will be released in Centennial and Elephant lake.

Southcentral Alaska, Fairbanks and Kodiak all rely on just two hatcheries to stock their lakes and production at the hatcheries has slowed in recent years now that the hatcheries have stopped receiving hot water from nearby power plants. As a result, Fish and Game must be extra careful in spreading the valuable stock.

“If I were to add a lake to the plan I would have to delete a lake,” Berkhahn said.

Although research on how to eradicate pike from Scout Lake continues, for now the situation remains bleak.

“The best you can do is to hope to knock their numbers down,” said Rob Massengill, a research biologist working with Fish and Game.

Pike populations can be decreased by loosened fishing regulations and control netting, but Fish and Game is a long way from seriously considering any eradication plans, such as chemical treatments, he said.

Massengill said he is surprised the central peninsula’s pike problem is not worse than it is.

“We’re a sitting duck for a pike boom,” Massengill said. “We’ve got some really vulnerable bodies of water.”

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