View Full Version : Diamond Lake Restoration!

04-28-2007, 05:13 AM
As seen in todays News Review:

DIAMOND LAKE — With the pull of two levers, rainbow trout poured in this fishery again Thursday and splashed the high Cascade lake with life for the first time in seven months.

At the North Boat Ramp near Diamond Lake Resort, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released 6,000 trout. The Klamath Falls Hatchery fish were jettisoned from a transportation truck, the first of many that will eventually carry 80,000 catchable rainbow trout to the lake.

“Whoa ho, finally!” remarked Dave Loomis, ODFW’s Diamond Lake Restoration Project incident commander, as he watched the third act of Diamond Lake’s restoration program begin, following years of planning and a rotenone treatment last September.

Before tui chub arrived and left their mark on Diamond Lake, Loomis said 300,000 catchable rainbow trout used to swim in the fishery in a good year.

Thursday’s stocking ensures the lake will be ready to fish Saturday, opening day for the mountain lakes trout season. But 6,000 trout is a far cry from the numbers of easy-to-catch keepers that once prompted droves of fishermen each spring to wet their hooks in the gem of the Cascades.

“But this is a step forward,” assured Loomis. And by next week, catchables will build in numbers as more rainbow trout arrive from hatcheries across the state: “The goal of these fish is to swim around and get caught.”

The stockings, Loomis said, will attract fishermen back to the lake and benefit wildlife in the area. But they are also limited to allow insects and benthic organisms to regain a foothold on the shoreline and in the bottom ooze.

“We don’t want to delay that recovery by putting too many fish in the lake,” he said.

Holly Truemper, right, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's project biologist, measures a rainbow trout as a young girl snaps a photo using her cell phone Thursday morning. The fish were being released into the lake as part of the Diamond Lake Restoration Project.
ANDY BRONSON / N-R staff photo

It was the tui chub, a minnow-like fish native to Klamath Basin that can grow to several inches in length, that had decimated the bottom rungs of this food chain.

In September 2006, Diamond Lake was treated with over 100,000 pounds of rotenone to suffocate an estimated 98 million tui chub. The troublesome species — assumed to be re-introduced to the lake as fishing bait in the early 1990s — had proliferated rapidly, devouring rainbow trout’s food supply and feeding toxic algae blooms with its waste.

The chub also ate zooplankton, decreasing blue algae’s common predator.

However, it took a meeting of the minds before tui chub could be sent to swim with the fishes in the sky.

Fourteen years of planning and several drafts of environmental impact statements later, ODFW set the eradication process in motion. But the agency had to plan it and coordinate it with the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Douglas County, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and other state agencies.

A week ago Diamond Lake was still frozen and looked like it would miss Opening Day. To stock the lake, it had to de-ice and oxygenate for at least a couple of days.

With Mt. Bailey in the background, a rainbow trout struggles to swim near the surface of Diamond Lake Thursday morning after nearly 6,000 live rainbow trout were released into the lake as part of the Diamond Lake Restoration Project.

By Monday, Loomis said 60 percent of the ice had melted, with the rest melting rapidly. By Thursday, the lake was oxygenated 15 meters beneath the surface and showed signs of more improvement.

“We were nervous four or five days ago,” said Rick Rockholt, events and marketing director at Diamond Lake Resort. “Because, with the ice not being off the lake we knew (ODFW) was not going to stock.”

Rockholt said Thursday’s stocking is a new beginning for Diamond Lake that’s been 10 years in the making. The lake and destination resort took a hit in visitor numbers as toxic algae blooms closed the lake to recreational activities and fishing.

The consumption of insects, shrimp, snails and leeches by tui chub in the summertime — when rainbow trout are in a lethargic phase — had also crippled the fall fishing season, the other half of what Rockholt calls a “shoulder season.”

A stocking of 6,000 catchable trout is just the beginning for Diamond Lake. In the next couple of weeks, 74,000 more catchable trout will be stocked, including 2,000 trophy-sized trout from Rock Creek Hatchery.

Later this spring, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will stock the lake with 100,000 fingerlings.

The catchable-sized trout are 8 to 10 inches in length.

The stockings come on the heels of last September’s much anticipated rotenone treatment, which eradicated an estimated 98 million tui chub. The operation cost $5.6 million overall and took 14 years of planning.

Diamond Lake is now considered to be in a recovery process and will be monitored by ODFW on a nearly daily basis. The agency will take creel samples of caught fish five days a week; take water quality samples once every two weeks, and check benthic organism populations once a month.

Rainbow trout limits for fishermen at Diamond Lake are five fish per angler, with each fish at a minimum 8 inches in length.

In 1954 Diamond Lake received its first and only other rotenone treatment. But it didn’t open for fishing until 1956. The lake was stocked with only fingerlings in 1955.

Dave Loomis, Diamond Lake Restoration Project incident commander, said the cost for this year’s and 2008’s stockings of catchable trout is about $200,000.

This weekend, Rockholt expects the lake to be “so-so” busy with fishermen, but a couple of weekends after that, “we’re going to be very busy.”

Loomis said in a few weeks, once a base of zooplankton is re-established, 100,000 fingerlings will be stocked in the lake. They will be Diamond Lake’s future fishery.

“Our goal is to make an increasing slope of improvement,” he said. “We told people don’t expect 2007 to be ‘the good old years’ of Diamond Lake.”

• You can reach reporter Adam Pearson at 957-4213 or by e-mail at apearson@newsreview.info.