Kokanee anglers at Wallowa Lake will be able to bring more fish home starting this holiday weekend. Beginning Friday, May 24, the daily bag limit will increase from 10 to 20 fish per day. There will continue be no minimum size limit but anglers will still be restricted to harvesting only five fish over 12-inches. For anglers visiting Wallowa Lake from afar, possession limits remain at two daily limits.
ODFW fishery managers announced the rule in response to a dramatic increase in kokanee abundance in recent years. According to Jeff Yanke, district fish biologist in Enterprise, the estimated population of kokanee in Wallowa Lake has increased from 70,000 fish in 2008 to over 900,000 fish in 2012.
“We’ve had a remarkable rebound in kokanee abundance, especially with younger fish under 12-inches,” said Yanke. “Just a few years ago the lake was producing much larger fish but overall the number of fish was much lower. “
“This rebound in the number of young fish is unprecedented for a kokanee fishery,” he added.
Wallowa Lake has gained a reputation for producing trophy-sized kokanee, breaking four state records and a world record from 2009 to 2010. However, history shows that the presence of trophy fish wasn’t always a positive sign, Yanke said.
“In several lakes in Idaho and Canada, the catch of trophy-size kokanee was followed by major population crashes,” Yanke recalls. “Wallowa Lake appears to have bucked this trend for now, and is hopefully in the process of stabilizing.”
The replacement of record-setting trophy fish with a bigger population of smaller fish means anglers will be enjoying a different kind of fishery.
“Angler expectations were certainly raised when so many record fish were caught in 2009-2010,” Yanke said. “Even today, many anglers expect to catch huge kokanee when they come to Wallowa Lake.”
Yanke said he hopes the increased bag limit will help offset the loss of trophy-sized fish.
“Wallowa Lake still has a great kokanee fishery,” Yanke said. “It’s just a little different from what it used to be.”
The increased bag limit was established under a temporary rule that will remain in place for six months. ODFW managers are proposing the rule become permanent in January 2014. To comment on the proposed rule change, anglers should call the ODFW Enterprise office at 541) 426-3279.
Logo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife