Each year the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully stocks 7 million legal-sized trout in lakes, ponds and reservoirs all across Oregon. However, finding an affordable way to evaluate the effectiveness of these stocking efforts has been challenging.
To address this challenge, the agency will try something new this year to help quantify the harvest, movement and growth of these stocked fish, said Josh McCormick, ODFW fish biometrician. The pilot program will undergo an initial test on Wallowa Lake this spring, and on Henry Hagg and Lake of the Woods this winter and spring 2015.
Previous evaluations of stocking programs have depended on creel surveys – interviewing anglers – efforts that have been limited due to time and expense.
As a result, McCormick said, “We know anglers are catching a lot of fish, but we don’t always know if we are at optimum stocking levels or using the best fish stocks to maximize harvest.”
So beginning on Wallowa Lake this spring, the agency will tag and release a known number of fish into the lake and ask anglers who catch a tagged fish to return them to or notify ODFW with the tag information.
“If every angler who catches a tagged fish returns it, we’ll know the proportion of the total population of fish that were caught,” McCormick said. “However, we can’t assume that every tagged fish that anglers catch will be returned.”
So to further fine tune the sample, a prescribed number of fish will have a reward tag that will earn the lucky angler who catches a tagged fish a $50 reward.
According to Jeff Yanke, ODFW fish biologist in Enterprise, biologists will release 2,050 tagged fish into the lake, including 100 $50 reward tags.
“We hope this program will help us determine if we are stocking the appropriate number of fish to provide anglers ample harvest opportunities,” Yanke said. Managers would also like to learn if fish move away from the stocking sites before they’re caught, and if they overwinter and are available to anglers the next year.
For anglers, it’s a chance to participate in fishery management and, perhaps, to come away with $50 for that help.
If you catch a tagged fish:
Tagged fish can be harvested or released. If the fish is released, cut the tag off at the base rather than try to rip the tag out.
Anglers can report non-reward tags in person, by mail, by phone, or by using the tag-reporting page on the ODFW website. Go to www.odfw.com, Fishing Resources.
Reward tags must be returned to ODFW, preferably the District Office where the fish was caught, either in person or by mail.
Look for “Tag Team” posters at the boat ramps for further project and contact information.
This pilot program will be funded through a grant from the ODFW Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program.