AP: Fish stocking in North Cascades lakes set to end

Public High Lakes Forum High lakes discussion AP: Fish stocking in North Cascades lakes set to end

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    • #81630
      Brian Curtis

      So far this new article on NCNP fish stocking is only on the PI website, but it is an AP article so hopefully it will hit the wire and see wider distribution.

      Edit: The article just showed up in The Olympian
      Edit: Here it is on Oregon Live.

    • #86536
      Brian Curtis

      There is a very slanted summary of this article with no link to the original posted in a blog at about.com

    • #86537
      Don Wicklund

      Greetings everyone,
      I’ve been a Hi-Laker for about 13 years and the NCNP Fish Stocking news this a.m. on the TV has prompted me to try my hand for the very first time on a Forum.
      I found the AP news story informative and it mentioned Sandy more than once. It is here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i5_8qclNL7Q2sC6mEPDc8o-nTANAD97HEBN80
      I also found the Park’s policy on their website here:

      I was surprised to see TV the news story. It was brief and concentrated the tone on killing fish in mountain lakes within the park unless congress gives their approval to stock up to 42 lakes with nonreproducing trout.
      This public disclosure will be very interesting to watch to see if it helps or hurts the cause to plant.
      Of course my opinion is that the plan, as drafted, should be given approval by Congress. Typically, there are overzealous individuals within any group and it appears to me that the “environmentalists” against this reasonable and not harmful fish stocking are seriously overreacting.
      What do you think?

    • #86538
    • #86539
      Tom Bentzen

      While I certainly dont mean to be a doom and gloomer, this doesnt seem like good news for either club…. God bless Doc Hastings and his work at getting this crap curtailed. :fishing:

    • #86540
      Brian Curtis

      Here’s a nice blog take on the article.

    • #86541
      Sandy McKean

      If anyone is truly interested in how this situation can be turned around, read my post of Aug 21 2008 10:13 am at:


      (you will have to scroll down a bit to see this particular post). It is a short summary of what I think the status is (it’s a bit out of date now however), and what YOU can do about it.

      P.S. There is lots you can say about this issue (and as I read various accounts and blogs on the issue, I am amazed at the amount of mis-information and speculation that folks seem to be willing to spread), but the bottom line determining this situation today is that the “culprit” is the National Park Service (NPS). It spent millions of dollars and decades of time studying this situation, produced a 1000 page EIS report, chose a preferred alternative (B) which would allow fish stocking to continue, artificially created this need for Congress to pass a bill that would “clarify” that fish stocking was an acceptable park management action (note that apparently such clarification from Congress has not been required for the NPS to build trails, build bridges, create designated campsites, install steel fire rings, etc, etc), and THEN when citizen action actually resulted in a bill (HR 3227) getting a hearing in the 2008 Congress, the NPS suddenly refused to support the very bill they had requested! The NPS is the problem, and the only organization with enough clout in Washington DC to perhaps undo this damage is the Governor’s office and the Fish and Wildlife agency in the state of Washington. So far the state has been very ineffective at saving this fishery.

      P.P.S. I have been working for months with the AP to get this nationally distributed article done. It’s pretty good and accurate (altho it features me a bit too much, but I’m the only person they knew). My only disappointment is that it does not sufficently highlight the NPS’s “Benedict Arnold” shenanigans surrounding the bill in Congress (they don’t allow interviewees to see the article before publication).

    • #86542
      Tom Bentzen

      Cant thank you enough for all the hard work that you and others have put into this Sandy! :mrgreen: :fishing:

    • #86543
      Rex Johnson

      Just saw this on Komo 4 web page. I sent Ken Schram a thank you email.
      Nothing’s fishy about trout policy
      by Ken Schram

      SEATTLE – – I take no joy or embarrassment from the following: I’ve never been fishing. Ever.

      Growing up in the Bronx just didn’t lend itself to the past time and I’ve never developed the inclination to try it.

      I mention this only because I’m stumped over the controversy of stocking trout in some alpine lakes in the North Cascades National Park.

      Seems some whacked out conservationists are on some purity streak about maintaining wilderness in its natural state.

      They don’t cotton to the idea of putting fish in lakes that don’t otherwise have fish.

      Never mind that stocking the lakes with trout that don’t reproduce has been going on for generations and that studies show there’s not a lick of ecological effects.

      But the National Park Service decided Congress should make a decision on whether to continue stocking.

      Congress didn’t, so now environmental purists are on their high horse saying they’ll kill any stocked trout put in any North Cascades lakes.

      Like I said, I’ve never been fishing, but for the life of me I don’t get the mean-spirited point of being an environmental butt-head toward folks who hurt nothing by making one of life’s simple pleasures available in one of the most beautiful areas on Earth.

      Have something to say to Ken? You can e-mail him at

    • #86544
      Brian Curtis

      The author of this article at National Parks Traveler call Chip Jenkins and got a bunch of new quotes. This is required reading for anyone interesting in hearing the Park Service’s side of this issue.

      The most troubling and revealing quote from this article is this one concerning what the effect would be if fish stocking authorization occurs after 1 July: “If passage comes after July 1, it could create some tense moments for the Park Service.”

    • #86545
      Ken Masel

      In addition, Dori Monson on KIRO FM talked about the subject and interviewed Chip Jenkins who tried to explain the Park’s position and reasoning.

    • #86546
      Larry Anderson

      Thanks for setting the Dori Monson show up for us to listen. If you go about 4/5 of the way through will can hear my little rant. I had so many things to say, all written down. but at least I got a couple points across. Sounds like we need to put pressure on the NCNP.

    • #86547
      Minda Paul

      The PI article was printed in the most recent edition of Cascadia Weekly, a free community paper read by residents of Whactom County.


      Way to get the word spread Sandy!

    • #86548

      I think if the park has a boggle with high lakes trout. The should not kill all of them butshould just not continue to plant. All of the lakes i have packed into the fish seem self sustaining. I t would be more cost effective for the state ane us outdoorsmen would still be able to enjoy it and possibly have a more effective roll in high alpine fisheries.

    • #86549
      Brian Curtis

      Stopping stocking and leaving naturally reproducing populations alone seems logical and that’s exactly the approach the NCNP wanted to take 20 years ago, but it turns out to be exactly backwards from both ecological and angling perspectives. When fish reproduce in high lakes they almost always over-reproduce. They become severely out of balance with the carrying capacity of the lake and they harm animals native to the lake. The NCNP studies concentrated on their effects on zooplankton and amphibians. They found that when a lake is full of over-reproducing fish they didn’t find the populations of long-toed salamanders that should have been in the lakes. They also found that community structures of copepods shifted from larger predatory species to smaller grazing species.

      Conversely, in lakes stocked in low densities they found the expected populations of copepods and salamanders.

      Where fish over-reproduce you end up with a lake full of small fish that have no way to grow because they have little food. The fishing is lousy.

      Having found over-reproducing fish to be doing harm the NCNP is determined to remove them. I support that effort and think it needs to be extended to other wilderness areas.

      Because stocking in low densities was determined to do no harm the preferred alternative in the EIS allowed for continued fish stocking. But the Park Service stepped in and is undermining the EIS process in an effort to stop all high lake stocking in the park.

      The cost of stocking is extremely low. The fish are stocked as fry so hatchery costs are minimal and most stocking is done by volunteers at no cost to the state.

    • #86550
      Sandy McKean

      Excellent summary Brian.

      One of the most difficult issues to deal with has been this disconnect between what is intuitive and what is good ecological management actions. It just doesn’t “make sense” to folks to discover that continuous fish stocking with non-reproducing fry is actually a more eco-friendly management plan compared to the more intuitive idea that the best of all worlds would be to stock once and allow natural reproduction to re-populate the fishery.

      The idea that self-sustaining populations is a good thing when it is actually a bad thing has been one our biggest problems to deal with since it is so natural for folks to assume that self-sustaining populations are a good thing. Once one educates oneself on the biological science, suddenly a light bulb turns on and you realize why continuous periodic stocking with non-reproducing fish is the environmentally sound way to go if you are to have a fishery at all.

    • #86551

      Then my only other question would be. If you continue to stock in a lake wouldn’t the hold overs still be their which would produce over population. The reason i say this is because i have my own secret lake that nobody goes to because of the difficult pack in and not a whole lot of people know about it. When i go into this lake i se big trout (14-22′). It has only been stockt one time in the late 60’s.The way it was stockt is from packing in fry. From my own experience i cannot by the parks theory. With this small lake their are just as many predators and only one fisherman a year that keeps 3 trout for dinner.

    • #86552
      Brian Curtis

      Lakes with self sustaining populations that are not overpopulated are unusual, but not unheard of. In the case of non-reproducing fish hold-over populations are taken into account in both the stocking rate and frequency to assure the lake does not become overpopulated.

      The other question is, are you sure your lake hasn’t been stocked? The Dept doesn’t publicize the stocking of small, remote lakes so it is entirely possible the lake been stocked.

    • #86553

      it might be possibile that it has been stocked the only thing is it is on d,n,r land not parks.My knowledge is that it had fry packed in in the 60’s by a logger and park ranger. The reason it was stocked is because they wanted their own fishing retreat.I am pretty sure it has not been stocked especialy on a regular basis.

    • #86554
      Brian Curtis

      Here is a blog post by Roland Knapp, the lead researcher working on impacts of stocked trout in the Sierras. He talks about research showing effects of stocked fish on lakes in Maine and mentions the NCNP issue.


      Here’s the NY Times article he links to on the effects of fish stocking in Maine. It is well worth reading.


    • #86555

      thanks for the link it is alwayse good to learn something new.

    • #86556
      Brian Curtis

      In his blog Knapp makes reference to a study he did that found high lakes in Yosemite had low resistance but high resilience to fish introductions. What that means is that lakes in Yosemite with fish showed changes in native biota but that when the fish were removed the populations were able to bounce back quickly. It only took a couple years. One of the interesting things buried in the paper was that fish density and lake depth were key predictors in evaluating resistance. IOW, this backs up the NCNP findings where they found the most damage in shallow lakes with high densities of fish.

      [FriendlyFlyFisher-check your inbox, I sent you a PM]

    • #86557
      Sandy McKean

      There remains an unforunate bias in Knapp’s work (and in the work of some others) — a bias that derives from their belief that fish stocking is harmful to other biota in an alpine lake. I can speculate as to how this bias came to be; namely, that early research did NOT properly distinguish btwn low density fish populations and high density. Since the majority of stocked lakes were first stocked decades ago (even more than 100 years ago in many cases) before it was understood that stocking in low densities prevents harm to the lake, most stocked alpine lakes today have high density populations. Therefore, if you look at data for all lakes without taking density seriously (as was the case in most early research), the data seemed to indicate that the stocking of fish was harmful. However, in the last 15-20 years we’ve come to realize that there is no harm done to the lake as long as population densities remain low. In addition, the best way to keep densities low seems to be to stock with non-reproducing fish (with the exception of a very few lakes were reproducing fish do not over-reproduce).

      Even today Knapp and others don’t emphasize this density distinction as they should. For example , in the paper Knapp wrote which Brian refers to above, Knapp mentions that density impacts the data, but he never really spells out the extent to which density skews the data, nor does he make clear that the damage he reports does not exist in low density lakes.

      Frankly, I find his work misleading, and it will remain misleading until he properly, totally, and scientifically accounts for differences in fish density in his data. I suspect he is relunctant to do so since it might be embarrassing to admit that his past conclusions did not sufficiently take into account this issue of low and high density populations. (Note that researchers Liss and Larson made this same mistake in their research until we pointed out the problem to them 10 years ago and they decided to add a follow on phase to their research (phase III — which indeed did bear out the conclusion that low density populations do not harm lakes).

    • #86558
      Brian Curtis

      The other problem that leads Knapp’s work in that direction is that he is almost always looking at naturally reproducing lakes vs no fish. As we know, that normally means high densities vs none. Even in cases where they looked where fish were being stocked it was often on top of spawning populations.

    • #86559
      Brian Curtis

      Here’s the first post I’ve seen celebrating the 1 July deadline passing at National Parks Traveler. Lots of problems with this summary. Here’s one of my favorites:

      “There is a small group of people who are very passionate about this, and they got the impression that starting today on July 2 we were going to be out there using poisons to remove fish from all of the lakes. And that’s not happening,” he said. “The principal action that we’re taking at this stage in the game is we’re doing nothing. By that I mean the most important step that we can take in terms of ecological restoration of these lakes is simply to stop introducing non-native species.”

      And the very next sentence after saying they are doing nothing is:

      Ashley Rawhouser, the park’s aquatic biologist, said crews will focus their efforts on removing fish from 27 lakes.

      Although they are celebrating the deadline passing, t he fact is that Congress can still direct the park to allow fish stocking. We need to make sure our Senators know that. Letters are more important then ever.

    • #86561

      Which 27 lakes are going to be killed off. And what a way to spend our tax money by killing off lakes that really don’t need it.


    • #86560

      The overreproducing lakes really need some help. According to the study, they are not in very good shape.

    • #86562
      Brian Curtis

      It is sort of counter-intuitive that naturally reproducing fish might need to be removed from a lake. But when you get too many fish in a lake they wipe out their food supply. That is bad for animals native to the lake from zooplankton right up to amphibians and it is bad for the fishing because the fish can’t get over 8 or 10 inches long and they can end up very skinny. The trout will grow reasonably quickly for about 3 years until they sexually mature. At that point all energy will go into producing gametes and spawning before it will go into growth so if there isn’t surplus food they stop growing.

      So I agree that we need to do something about these spawning populations. But I think we should come back with non-reproducing fish in low densities that don’t harm native biota. That’s the portion of this management plan they are shutting down.

    • #86563

      Viewed from the “outside” (California) I find it a shame that policy seems to be getting pushed in the direction that it has gone in California (where the self sustaining lake is viewed as the next-best type of fishery in terms of environmental compatibility–with fishless lakes being viewed as “best”), which in my opinion is a rather primitive and counterproductive approach compared your preferred alternative in the EIR. There is little doubt that the last couple decades of debates over high lake fisheries management have stigmatized fish stocking in the minds of many, blinding them to many alternatives.

      Regarding self sustaining fisheries from a CA perspective, we have an abundance of trout-bearing high lakes here so one can get a good look at how naturally reproducing fisheries have fared here–I have personally visited about 750 high lakes here, many of which are self sustaining (this is true of all of the trout-bearing lakes in Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks where air dropping ceased long ago).

      There is a relatively small fraction of self sustaining lakes that contain low population densities of trout, but with such a large number of lakes, one can still find a fair number of these places. Most of the self sustaining fisheries, have progressively increased in population density over the years, and this is no doubt the biggest difference in fish size (much smaller and more numerous today on average) than reports of “the way it used to be” and historical accounts such as Charlie McDermand’s fine accounts from the 1940’s. There is a very full spectrum of fisheries in this self sustaining category from lakes with stunted populations. Stunted lakes are not limited to brook trout lakes, for stunted populations of rainbows and goldens exist in plenty of lakes. There are fisheries “in the middle” that contain fairly large numbers of fish that reach very respectable top end. Those lakes provide good sport because they are not “all or nothing” lakes in which one either catches the lunker or strikes out. On the other hand their population densities are high enough so that sensitive species such as the Mountain Yellow Legged frog have great difficulty coexisting. On the premium side are the lakes with the low population density, very large fish, and potential compatibility with sensitive species. Such lakes are also not salmonid-species-specific, for there are premium brook trout lakes in this category as well as rainbow and golden fisheries.

      Another wild card in all of this appears to be variations in regional climate and ecosystems. For example the MYLF really have a hard time surviving in trout-bearing lakes of the High Sierra (say Yosemite and south), with coexistence generally limited to lakes with very low fish population densities. In contrast in the northern Sierra Nevada (Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe is a poster child) there are (or were) many fisheries where stocked or naturally reproducing trout fisheries coexisted just fine with MYLF for many decades. Nobody has ever explained to me why this is true, but one thing that comes to mind is that the lakes in the northern Sierra Nevada are at lower average elevations than those in the “High” Sierra.

      In any case, I am saddened by this turn of events, for I have often mentioned to Californians that Washington high lakes fisheries management directions are more enlightened than those here (in CA). In particular there seemed to be a more cooperative approach (between various agencies) before now. In CA things have been very confrontational from the start with various agencies launching what seemed to be one-sided anti-trout campaigns, many fishermen retaliating while commonly using uninformed emotional arguments to back their case and ignoring the good science behind many of the environmental studies, and CA DFG caught a bit in the middle but leaning strongly toward the angler advocacy side (in spite of this many anglers blame DFG for all of the management changes). What we now find is that many management changes are promulgated in a way that seems to limit public comment. Even DFG has been reluctant to publicly divulge information (although they will upon individual request)–the party line is that if anglers know too much, some of them may take matters into their own hands and “coffee can” fishless lakes.



    • #86564
      Sandy McKean

      Having lived 30 years in California hiking/fishing the Sierras, and now 30 years in Washington hiking/fishing the Cascades, I see many differences btwn the 2 situations. I will mention just one: in Washington large portions of various high mountain designated wilderness areas are under the management of the Forest Service; whereas in California the National Park Serivice manages a large portion of these high mountain wilderness areas. (I haven’t done a factual analysis of this statement, but that is my impression — if I’m wrong I hope someone will correct me). The NPS has always been far more aggressive about what might be called the “pristine character” of wilderness areas than the USFS. The cultures of the 2 agencies is quite different. It is true, of course, that Wilderness Act of 1964 governs both agencies when it comes to managing wilderness areas, but everyone, it seems, has a differing view what what phrases such as “umtrammeled by man” means.

    • #86565

      Actually most of the trout-bearing high lakes of California, including the majority of trout-bearing high lakes in the Sierra Nevada, are in USFS land rather than NPS. Here in CA the NPS indeed moved first as air dropping was stopped in Sequoia-Kings Canyon NPs in and in the vast majority Yosemite lakes in the 1970’s–the very few remaining stocked lakes in Yosemite (can name on one hand) were phased out by the late 80’s/early 90s. This was prior to the Mountain Yellow Frog crisis. The USFS first raised this issue in the early 90’s if I recall and proposed an aggressively anti-trout plan similar to the NPs (ie cessation of all stocking). This did not occur but many MYLF studies followed. This has led to major cutbacks in air dropping in USFS land, as well as extermination of trout populations in selected lakes (collectively dozens of lakes but percentage wise not too many lakes) in both USFS lands and the National Parks (where the fisheries they’re killing off are of course self sustaining given that stocking ceased long ago). Accordingly the lakes situation isn’t all that different in CA and Washington.

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