Fish and Game biologists are back out on Cheney Lake, where for a few years now they’ve been battling invasive northern pike, which have decimated the native trout population in the urban fishing hole.
“It’s a lot of effort and a lot of resources that we have to put toward removing these things,” said Dan Bosch, a fishery biologist.
Their latest effort involves laying a dozen gill nets across portions of the lake, a particularly tricky task, given that the surface is frozen solid in 3 degree weather.
The team drills dozens of holes in the ice, and then strings 120-foot-long gill nets under the surface.
“Once they swim through basically their gills get stuck,” said habitat biologist Krissy Dunker, holding the end of the net, which drapes down toward the bottom of the lake.
Fish and Game thought it had eradicated the pike after a 2008 project where they laced Cheney Lake with rotenone, a chemical that kills any fish in the water.
By then, pike were really the only species left, having eaten everything else.
Biologists restocked the lake with trout the following spring, only to hear some pretty credible reports this past summer that the pike had returned.
Whether the pike survived the poisoning, or someone dumped them illegally, Fish and Game does not know.
That’s why they’re laying the nets. To get a better sense of what’s down there, before they even think about pumping in another truckload of trout this coming spring.
“Hopefully when we come out next week and we look we’ll know then if we’re catching anything,” said Bosch.