Ice fishermen are being asked to cool it on fishing in Stormy Lake in Nikiski this winter, as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order Monday prohibiting the retention of Arctic char/Dolly Varden from Nov. 14 through April 30, 2015.
Sportfishing through the ice is allowed, using two closely attended lines with one hook or artificial lure allowed on each line. But char/Dollies pulled from the lake must immediately be returned. The fish are in a sensitive period of growth in attempting to re-establish their population in the lake.
In September 2012, the lake was treated with rotenone — a naturally occurring chemical found in the roots, seeds and leaves of several subtropical plants — to eradicate an invasive pike population that had taken over the lake and threatened to spill out into the Swanson River system. When applied to water, rotenone is an effective fish killer, as it inhibits cellular respiration and causes eventual death to fish from the reduced uptake of oxygen. It’s also been used as a pesticide and insecticide, though fish are particularly sensitive to rotenone because it easily enters their bloodstream through their gills. It biodegrades quickly and doesn’t pose a threat to humans. The powdered form has even been used to treat scabies and head lice.
Rotenone is an indiscriminate aquatic killer, so Fish and Game retrieved samples of the native species they’d like to preserve in the lake before treating it with the chemical. After the rotenone dissipated and testing showed no remaining pike in the lake, the department started reintroducing fish in 2013. Eggs had been taken from native Arctic char and reared in the William Jack Hernandez Hatchery in Anchorage, and the resulting fingerlings were restocked last summer.
According to the department, lake sampling done this summer was encouraging, showing that Arctic char accounted for 51 percent of all the fish captured. Other fish included juvenile coho salmon, rainbow trout and long-nose suckers. The lake has been open to fishing, though the department cautions anglers not to expect to haul out any large catches, as fish populations will take years to rebound and grow back to the levels seen before the pike infestation took hold.
Arctic char, though, need a little extra protection.
“Arctic char are a species with slow growth rates and low population densities and it is unknown how long it will take for these fish to become sexually mature and to reestablish natural production. To allow for the restoration of native fish in Stormy Lake, it is prudent to apply conservative regulations on this stock until they are able to propagate,” according to the emergency order issued Monday.
Anglers, though, have plenty of other options, as Fish and Game stocks about 20 lakes on the central Kenai Peninsula. Several got a new influx of fish this summer:
- ARC Lake, Soldotna: Arctic grayling and coho.
Barbara Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout.
Cabin Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout.
Centennial Lake, Kasilof: Rainbow trout and coho.
Chugach Estates Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout.
Douglas Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout.
Spirit (Elephant) Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout and coho.
Encelewski Lake, Kasilof: Rainbow trout.
Island Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout and Arctic char.
Johnson Lake, Kasilof: Rainbow trout.
Longmere Lake, Sterling: Rainbow trout and coho.
Loon Lake, Soldotna: Rainbow trout.
Scout Lake, Sterling: Rainbow trout and Arctic grayling.
Sport Lake, Soldotna: Rainbow trout.
Thetis Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout.
Tirmore Lake, Nikiski: Rainbow trout.
The daily bag/possession limit for rainbows when lake fishing is five, with only one 20 inches or longer. Only two rainbows 20 inches or longer may be kept per year.
The daily bag/possession limit for Arctic char when lake fishing is five. There is no size limit.
The daily bag/possession limit for cohos when lake fishing is 10. There is no size limit.