By Becky Kramer
Lake Pend Oreille’s healthy numbers offer recovery lessons
Salmon make an epic journey, swimming hundreds of miles from the ocean to return to their birthplace.
To Tom Whalen, the shorter migration of Lake Pend Oreille’s bull trout is no less remarkable. He’s watched adult fish the size of small dogs fight their way through shallow mountain streams to return to spawning grounds high above the lake.
“You see these really large trout – pushing 20 pounds – going up these mountain tributaries. A quarter of the fish is sticking out of the water,” said Whalen, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game officer.
The fact that bull trout still spawn in Lake Pend Oreille’s tributaries is testament to two decades of cooperation between public and private partners. The species is in trouble throughout most of its range, but the Pend Oreille system has one of the West’s largest bull trout populations left – about 10,000 of the federally protected fish, which are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
This spring, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release a recovery plan for bull trout. Their need for the coldest and cleanest of Northwest waters makes the fish a bellwether…