Reader: Trout management must change for success

Posted: Friday, July 29, 2005

It is Hidden Lake! It is truly marvelous that lake trout have even survived there. First, we have no lake trout stocking program on the Kenai Peninsula. Second, lake trout fishing pressure is not in harmony with trout abundance. Furthermore, and critically important, lake trout under “ideal” conditions grow relatively slow, averaging one-quarter to one-half pound a year.

It is impossible for the trout to accomplish this growth in Hidden Lake, since conditions are not ideal. Ideal baitfish do not exist and stickleback and kokanee will not do it, especially since many of the snail beds seem to have disappeared over the years.

Over 30 years of experience fishing Hidden Lake tells me that more careful conservation of breeding stocks is required. Only then is there a slight chance that in the future, lake trout might survive in adequate numbers to handle a recreational fishery.

We must allow larger fish to reproduce. Over the past 20 to 25 years, I have noted a huge decrease in trout. Big char, another Hidden Lake species, are now rarely caught. I realize Hidden Lake is not a priority fishery. But since we do not have a stocking program for lake trout, since lake trout never would be planted in a lake that has flowing open water accessing the sacred salmon waters of the Kenai River, since no matter what “studies” say; are not the study results useless? Presently, I think something is missing with this lake trout management.

Nowhere in the USA or Canada has the bag limit been 10 in a watershed such as Hidden Lake since 1940. That long-standing regulation has taken its toll. After working to get that irresponsible limit down from 10 to two with retention of only one more than 20 inches, a more responsible limit, a new regulation somehow surfaced. It retained the two-fish limit but eliminated the more than 20-inch regulation. Why? How did that happen?

Larger lake trout, the spawners, are always easier to catch since they must put on 20 percent of their body weight prior to spawning.

It is my opinion that conserving lake trout stocks in Hidden Lake for a recreational fishery still has a slight chance for survival, but stricter regulations are needed now. One fish? Slot limit? Barbless single hook? Hook and release?

Lake trout handle H&R better than most freshwater game fish. Spawning closure? No longer should Hidden Lake trout go to the freezer! With the abundance of fish on this peninsula, it seems senseless and irresponsible to stock the freezer with fish from Hidden Lake, a lake that is now in dire need of some tender loving care.

If we continue on this same course in this lake at the same rate of indulgence, with the same old regulations, your grandkids will never catch a lake trout out of Hidden Lake.

Spencer DeVito

Soldotna



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