August 20, 2013
ENTERPRISE, Ore. – ODFW and Oregon State Parks are hoping to improve relationships between Wallowa Lake visitors and the local kokanee salmon.
The agencies are collaborating on a volunteer program to help inform visitors about Wallowa Lake kokanee as they begin spawning in the Wallowa River.
“Our goal is to help visitors understand what it is they’re seeing,&rdquo said Lindsey Jones, OPRD Wallowa Lake Interpretive Ranger. “With that knowledge, they can make a stronger connection with these fish.”
Volunteers will walk spawning areas for one to two hours and talk with visitors interested in kokanee.
“Our goal is not to enforce or badger people,” Jones said. “We want visitors to have the information they need to make respectful andsympathetic decisions around the fish.” Volunteers can sign up at theirconvenience, and no prior knowledge is required.
“We will provide the information, all folks will need to bring is their passion and interest in fish,” said Jeff Yanke, ODFW fish biologist inEnterprise.
With their bright red spawning colors kokanee are easy to see in theriver, creating one of Oregon’s most unique wildlife viewing opportunities,according to Yanke. But easy accessibility has trade-offs, he adds.
“People can make a real connection with these fish, but at the sametime, a few uninformed visitors can have a significant impact on their spawningsuccess,” he said.
Most impacts stem from people and pets wading in and around spawning areas, Yanke said. “It’s already an extremely fragile time for kokaneeeven without people disturbing spawning fish or trampling newly depositedeggs.” That’s why ODFW closes the Wallowa River to all fishing above the lake on Aug 31.
To volunteer, call or email Jeff Yanke (Jeff.Yanke@state.or.us) or KyleBratcher (Kyle.W.Bratcher@state.or.us) of ODFW at 541-426-3279, or Lindsey Jones (Lindsey.Jones@state.or.us), Wallowa Lake State Park Interpretive Ranger, at 541-432-8855 x24.
Kokanee are sockeye salmon that remain in fresh water throughout their life cycle. After hatching in the river, the young migrate into Wallowa Lake where they rear for 2 to 4 years before returning upriver to spawn. Like sockeye salmon, kokanee die after spawning. At one time, Wallowa Lake hosted Oregon’s only ocean-going Snake River sockeye population, which was extirpated during the early 20th century. The lake’s kokanee remain, providing one of northeastern Oregon’s most popular recreational fisheries.