Elusive Kamloops face a stocking challengeKamloops rainbow trout fishing on the North Shore has been poor for the past three years.
By: Sam Cook, Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Kamloops rainbow trout fishing on the North Shore has been poor for the past three years.
But Duluth’s Ross Pearson is worried the Kamloops stocking program may soon be doomed. Next year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to shift most Kamloops production from the French River Hatchery near Duluth to the Spire Valley Hatchery near Remer to save money.
“If they go to Spire Valley, it will be a planned failure, and it will mean the end of the Kamloops program,” said Pearson, a representative of the angler group Kamloops Advocates.
But the DNR remains committed to the Kamloops program, said Don Schreiner, Lake Superior area fisheries supervisor for the DNR.
“If we wanted to discontinue the program, this would be an easy time,” Schreiner said. “We’re doing the best we can with the hand we’re dealt.”
Pearson’s concern is that Spire Valley Kamloops rainbows will have to be stocked at smaller sizes and earlier in the year so they will imprint on their home streams. But, he says, survival of the rainbows is not as good when they are stocked earlier and smaller.
Kamloops rainbows raised in the French River hatchery are naturally imprinted to the French River because its water flows through the hatchery. Because they’re imprinted to hatchery water, Kamloops rainbows reared there can be stocked at larger sizes and later in the summer, when survival is generally better.
Already, the number of adult Kamloops rainbows returning to the French River — and to anglers — has been low for the past three years.
Pearson contends that’s because those fish originally were stocked in June rather than in July, as had often been done in past years. Schreiner says it’s his “best guess” that the earlier stocking dates have contributed to diminished returns, although other factors may have contributed. Starting in 2006, the DNR went back to July stocking, Schreiner said. (The exception is at the Lester River, where Kamloops are stocked in May so they will imprint to the river.)
When rainbows are stocked at smaller sizes in May and June, they face a couple of challenges. First, Lake Superior’s lake trout are in shallow water then feeding on smelt. Small, silvery rainbows coming downstream make easy prey for lake trout.
With cool water temperatures, the lake is producing less zooplankton and fewer aquatic insects that rainbows feed on. That means they grow more slowly and remain prey size for longer.
“There are some concerns when you stock earlier,” Schreiner said. “This is not something I would have wished for, but it’s a reality of the economic situation.”
The DNR will continue stocking 92,500 Kamloops rainbows at French River, Lester River and near the McQuade Small-Craft Harbor, Schreiner said.
The other one-third of the 35,000 will come from Spire Valley in May. They might be held another month or two at the French River Hatchery, imprinting there and reaching 6 to 8 inches, Schreiner said.