Back to a natural state
Officials hope to return Badger Lake as a top trout fishery
If the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has its way, Badger Lake south of Cheney will return to being a first-class lowland trout fishery.
WDFW officials heard testimony on the plan from about 20 people last Wednesday at the Cheney Library. The lake is one of three Eastern Washington state fisheries biologists want to treat with rotenone, an organic agent that kills fish by keeping their gills from processing oxygen.
“Out of those, about three were Badger Lake residents who were in favor of the proposal,” WDFW fish biologist Randy Osborne wrote in an email. “One of them who I talked to said he was in favor and commented that it should have been done before now.” According to a fish survey conducted in June, it appears the lake has been overrun by warm water species like sunfish and bass.
An estimated 1,700 fish were caught and sampled, Osborne said this past Monday in a phone interview. Of that, 47 percent were pumpkinseed sunfish and another 46 percent were a combination of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. The survey was conducted along the shore, Osborne said, essentially the same site selection process as used in preseason sampling. It found a handful of brown bullhead trout, 20 rainbow and three cutthroat trout,” Osborne said.
“In one of those random surveys biologists captured nine largemouth bass, when they expected only trout,” Osborne said. “That gives us another indicator, OK, we need to look into this further.”
Badger has been managed for decades as a trout monoculture, Osborne explained. “We’re not trying to change that, we’re just trying to maintain what we have.”
The WDFW objective is for people to harvest four fish per angler, Osborne said. “It has been hovering around two fish per angler, most times not even that.” Badger hasn’t met those objectives since 2008.
“Out of all of our suite of lakes Badger Lake ranks right at the top as far as being conducive for trout,” he said. “It’s deep and has cold, clear water and the fish that come out of there taste spectacular.”
The proposal for cleaning up the warm water population is part of the WDFW’s attempt to “Try to provide something for everyone,” Osborne said.
Lakes are managed for warm water fish like Newman and numerous with mixed species. Those include Clear and Sprague closer to Cheney.
The Spokane Bass Club was also present at the meeting. “These members would like to see the lake left as is,” Osborne said.
He suggested a way to maybe make everyone happy.
“Instead of killing all of the bass, WDFW recognizes them as a valuable resource, and would attempt to collect a good number of them and move them to other lakes that are managed either as warm water lakes or as mixed species waters,” Osborne said.
He suggested Sprague Lake as one option.
In addition to input received at the public meetings, WDFW will consider written comments received through Aug. 23. Comments should be addressed to Bruce Bolding, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. Final consideration of the proposals will be made by the WDFW director in early September with any action taking place sometime in October.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.