As part of an effort to restore threatened bull trout populations, fishery managers will begin an experimental project later this month to remove brook trout from High Lake in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.
From July 23 to Aug. 3, staff from the Burns Paiute Tribe will use a combination of gill netting, electro shocking, trapping and seining to remove the non-native brook trout.
Brook trout were first introduced into High Lake in the 1930s and are now a naturally reproducing population. Recent surveys show the population is over-abundant, with most of the fish less than 8-inches long and in poor condition. Biologists are concerned, however, that some fish are migrating from High Lake into Lake Creek and hybridizing with native and federally-protected bull trout.
“Our goal this summer is to see whether the mechanical removal of fish can be a successful way to alleviate hybridization pressures downstream,” said Erica Maltz, fisheries manager with the Burns Paiute Tribe.
In addition to mechanically removing fish from the lake, tribal staff also will set a weir above the Lake Creek Youth Camp to trap brook trout trying to migrate into Lake Creek.
Fishing will remain open during removal efforts and there should still be plenty of fish available, according to Shannon Hurn, ODFW district fish biologist. If the brook trout removal efforts are ultimately successful, Hurn said, ODFW plans to offer a new fishing opportunity by restocking the lake with triploid rainbow trout.
The removal of brook trout from High Lake is part of a larger effort to restore bull trout populations in the upper Malheur River basin – an effort that includes the Burns Paiute Tribe, Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureaus of Reclamation and Land Management. The Tribe also is working with Burns Llama Trailblazers to facilitate movement of gear into the wilderness area.