It’s not often that a fishing restriction is actually good news, but that’s the case this week with and emergency order issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game last week.
On Tuesday, Fish and Game announced that ice fishermen on East and West Mackey Lakes, Derks Lake and Union Lake will be limited to two closely attended lines this winter. The restriction has been put in place after the successful eradication of invasive northern pike. Reducing fishing pressure is expected to help native species repopulate the lakes.
We’re glad to see Fish and Game continue to make progress in its fight against invasive pike in Kenai Peninsula waters. In additional to decimating native fish populations in lakes where they’ve been introduced, the voracious predators could potentially spread into the Kenai River and its tributaries, threatening the salmon runs.
Fish and Game has been using the piscicide rotenone to wipe out pike-infested lakes. Biologists have successfully eliminated pike in Stormy Lake in Nikiski, Arc Lake near Soldotna, and Scout Lake in Sterling using the chemical. They plan to continue to work in the Soldotna Creek drainage, and continue to refine the process as they go.
Coupled with interagency efforts to remove the invasive aquatic plant elodea, the Kenai Peninsula is leading the state in developing and implementing techniques to protect native fish populations.
With that success, however, comes a reminder that it will take an effort from the entire community for area waters to stay invasive species-free. Elodea was likely introduced accidentally, either hitchhiking on a boat or float plane, or dumped from a home aquarium.
Likewise, Fish and Game has said that pike were introduced through illegal stocking.
Just as biologists need to remain vigilant in their monitoring efforts, the public needs to remain aware of the potential damage invasive species can do to an ecosystem. For agencies to be able to continue their efforts, the public needs to continue to see those efforts as a priority.
We’re looking forward to the next few seasons, when we hope to be able to catch rainbows and Dollies in lakes previously infested with pike. In the mean time, we’re grateful for stewardship that is restoring those lakes to their former glory.