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Originally published May 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 18, 2008 at 4:24 PM

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Outdoors notebook | Lake Washington survey reveals diverse fish population

The results of a survey taken on Lake Washington revealed the huge urban basin is alive with a wide variety of fish. The recently released survey...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The results of a survey taken on Lake Washington revealed the huge urban basin is alive with a wide variety of fish.

The recently released survey conducted in the summer of 2005 was the first major study of the lake's resident fish population taken in nearly two decades by state Fish and Wildlife, and it canvassed about 40 percent of the lakeshore.

"We really covered a lot of area in our survey, and sampled over 40,000 fish," said Chad Jackson, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "Of those, 30,000 were sticklebacks, and out of the other 10,000, we found over 30 different species of fish. We also discovered a couple of species that weren't ever recorded in the lake."

The three-spined stickleback is about 6 centimeters long and lives about three years. It is mainly a nocturnal predator that feeds on invertebrates such as worms, insect larvae, small snails, crustaceans and water fleas. It also eats young fish and fish eggs, and sometimes other sticklebacks. The fish itself is mainly preyed on by birds or other larger fish.

Biologists used three methods of sampling, including electrofishing, netting and live trapping. Three methods were used to diversify the catch; a failure to do so could potentially miss a segment of the resident fish community.

"The whole survey was impressive, and it came out flawless, and we had so many cooks in the kitchen that got a lot of good information out of it," Jackson said.

With an area of about 21,500 acres, Lake Washington is the second-largest natural lake in the state. Lake Chelan is the largest.

Some of the other more populated species in the lake are chinook, coho and sockeye salmon; cutthroat trout; rainbow trout; longfin smelt; largemouth and smallmouth bass; brown bullheads; yellow perch; pumpkinseed sunfish; crappie; sculpin; suckers and northern pikeminnow.

"We know the lake has a good bass population, but what we got in our survey was a lot of younger age class bass, and not many were over 12 inches," Jackson said. "That is because, at the time of the survey, many of the larger ones were still in deeper water."

Another survey conducted on the lake at certain periods from 1995 to 1999 to determine bass predation on juvenile salmon and other salmonids was recently released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Fish and Wildlife, the Muckleshoot Tribe and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Many surmised that young salmon were being eaten heavily by the lake's bass family, but the survey revealed some surprising details.

The summary pointed out that bass were collected with electrofishing equipment in two areas where salmon usually congregate.

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The south end of the lake is an important rearing area for juvenile chinook that tend to use the nearshore habitat from February to May. The area is also located near the Cedar River, a major source of natural salmon production.

The other location was the Ship Canal, which is a narrow waterway through which salmon smolt must migrate to reach the marine waters.

The group examined the stomachs of 783 smallmouth bass and 310 largemouth bass.

Rates of predation on salmon in the south end of the lake were generally low for both bass species.

In the Ship Canal, juvenile salmon made up a substantial part of the bass diets; consumption was lower for largemouth than for smallmouth bass.

Smallmouth bass predation on juvenile salmon was highest in June, when the salmon made up about 50 percent of the bass diet.

The lake produced more than 2.4 million juvenile chinook (about 2.3 million were of hatchery origin) in 1999, the final year of the study.

The study concluded that under current conditions, predation by smallmouth and largemouth bass has a minor impact on chinook and other salmon populations.

The groups also recognized that their Ship Canal estimates were only taken for one year, and that annual variability in a number of factors — predator and prey abundance levels, relative proportion of prey species and environmental conditions — could increase predation mortality beyond the level conducted in the study.

Notes

• The Kingston Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Kingston Cove Yacht Club, 25915 Washington Blvd. N.E. Dan Stauffer from Ed's Surplus will discuss summer chinook fishing in Puget Sound. Details: 360-930-3223.

• The East Lake Washington Audubon Society is hosting a slide show by science writer Patrick Kelly titled America's Arctic Wilderness and Energy Independence: Fact or Fiction? 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church, 308 Fourth Ave. S. in Kirkland. Details: 425-576-8805 or www.elwas.org.

• The Puget Sound Anglers Eastside Chapter meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday at the North Bellevue Community Center, 4063 148th Ave. N.E. Paul Castillo with Fish Frontiers and Scotty Downriggers will discuss summer chinook fishing. Details: 425-562-9180.

• The Sno-King Coastal Conservation Association is hosting a fundraising banquet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Everett Events Center. Cost is $75 per person and includes membership. Details: i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii311/ryleyf/CCA_brochure.jpg.

• The Icicle Chapter of Trout Unlimited is hosting a Family Fishing Derby 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 31 at the Cove Resort on Fish Lake in Chelan County. The local chapter will also have a breakfast and lunch for participants. Details: 509-763-3130 or 509-548-7662.

• The Three Rivers Marine and Tackle Big Tent Spring Sale is 9 a.m. May 29-31 at 24300 Woodinville-Snohomish Road. Details: 425-415-1575 or www.3riversmarine.com

• The Washington Steelhead Coalition is hosting the Steelhead Summit Alliance May 31 in Seattle. The summit is a gathering of concerned groups, anglers and residents to discuss the latest issues facing steelhead. Details: 206-669-6263 or e-mail heritagesea@aol.com.

• Outdoor Emporium, 1701 Fourth Ave. S. in Seattle is having a sale on a wide variety of fishing and hunting gear Wednesday through May 25. Details: 206-624-6550.

• Tom Nelson of Salmon University will be the speaker at the IBEW Local 46 Union Sportsmen's Club meeting 5:30 p.m. June 2 at 19802 62nd Ave. South in Kent. Details: 253-395-6500 or www.ibew46.org.

• With high gas prices many will be looking for summer outings a little closer to home, and one of those is Mount Rainier National Park.

Authors Dan Nelson and Alan Bauer will host a free presentation from their book titled Day Hiking Mount Rainier 7 p.m. May 28 at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E. in Lake Forest Park. Both will provide useful secrets about the park's hiking trail system, camping spots, views, and a how to include kids and dogs. There will also be a Q&A and book signing. Details: 206-366-3316.

• The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will host a public meeting 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. May 27 at the Flaming Geyser State Park Lodge near Auburn to discuss land transfers in the King County area in and around the Green River Gorge Conservation Area.

For a copy of the preliminary proposal, call 253-288-3000 or email nikki.fields@parks.wa.gov.

• Come check out a fish that has outlived the prehistoric dinosaurs 1 p.m.-4 p.m. May 31-June 1 at the free Sturgeon Festival at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way in Vancouver.

There will be environmental activities for all ages including interactive children learning stations, live animal presentations, fish anatomy lessons, water safety demonstrations, puppet shows, story tellers, and other events related to the Columbia River ecosystem. Details: 360-906-6741 or 360-487-7111.

• The Orvis Store at 911 Bellevue Way N.E. is hosting a gala champagne book signing party 4 p.m.-8 p.m. June 4 with authors Les Johnson, Bruce Ferguson and Pat Trotter who will sign copies of their book, "Fly Fishing for Pacific Salmon II.

Fly angler Kevin Ryan will also be tying some saltwater fly patterns and will discuss the resident coho fishery in Puget Sound. Details: 425-452-9138.

• This month is Bike to Work Month and is sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club to promote cycling as a healthy, economical, practical and eco-friendly form of transportation.

The Starbucks Bike to Work Day is 6 a.m.-9 a.m. May 16, where bicycle commuters can stop at one of 42 commute stations located throughout King, Snohomish and Kitsap counties to receive a free water bottle, maps, snacks, commuting information, and have bikes checked by bike shop sponsors. From 7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m. the Starbucks Bike to Work Day Rally will be held at Seattle City Hall with music, speakers, and free Starbucks coffee.

Bike to School Day is also on May 16 where elementary school students will record trips on a paper tracking sheet, and high school students will participate in an online commute challenge.

During the entire month will be the Group Health Commute Challenge where teams of riders will compete to see who can bike the most. The ride is open to anyone who commits to ride five times or more during the month. Prizes will be awarded to winning teams and individuals.

For details on all these events, go to www.cbcef.org/btw/cc.html or www.cascade.org or call 206-522-3222.

• The North Cascades National Park Visitor Center, near the town of Newhalem, is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The center features exhibits, theater presentations, and is staffed by park rangers and volunteers. The center has access to the scenic Sterling Munro Overlook and a network of easy hiking trails such as the 1/3 mile Rock Shelter Trail and the 1.8 mile River Loop Trail.

The Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount is currently open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and opens daily beginning May 18. The center offers trip planning information and is the main location for backcountry users to obtain permits required for all overnight stays. Details: www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/hiking.htm. Reservations for campgrounds can be made at www.recreation.gov.

• The Mount Rainier National Park Education Program is offering two middle-school teacher workshops this summer.

The Living with a Volcano in Your Backyard -- Mount Rainier workshop is July 22-25, and is designed for middle school teachers who teach about volcanoes, volcanic process, product, and hazards. Teachers will receive copies of the curriculum and additional resources to use with their students, and earn three quarter credits or 31-35 clock hours.

The Curriculum Review Workshop for Mount Rainier-Mount Fuji Sister Mountain is Aug. 7-8. Teachers can provide feedback on the draft materials developed to date for this international interdisciplinary middle school curriculum project. Teachers will receive copies of the draft materials to pilot test with your students for further feedback, and earn one quarter credit or 12 clock hours.

Advanced registration is required, and the deadline is July 1. Details: 360-569-6039 or email anne_doherty@nps.gov or www.nps.gov/mora/forteachers/professionaldevelopment.htm.

• Due to a lack of funds Mount Rainier National Park could be faced with selling land to developers inside the park's borders.

Mount Rainier National Park is one of 55 national parks with vital land now on the public market. Mount Rainier itself has 800 acres within its boundaries for sale at an estimated cost of $4.5-million.

To try and stop development inside park boundaries and enable the Park Service to purchase these so-called "in-holdings" from willing sellers, the National Parks Conservation Association is encouraging Congress to provide the Park Service with at least $100 million this year from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Plus, additional funding in the years leading up to the Park Service's centennial in 2016. Details: www.npca.org/landforsale.

• The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group sponsors a local environmental fair May 7 at Belfair State Park that hosts about 800 to 900 students, chaperones and teachers, and are looking for volunteers to serve in a variety of supporting roles. Details: 360-275-3575 or email chris@hcseg.org.

• The Summit for Salmon climb of Mount Rainier is Aug. 22-25, and Save Our Wild Salmon is looking for participants that raises funds to help protect and restore healthy, sustainable wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Experienced guides from Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. will lead the group. Details: 206-286-4455 or www.wildsalmon.org.

• The National Alpine Ski Camp is offering a summer snow camp for children and young adults of all ages at Mount Hood in Oregon.

The camp offers six- and ten-day sessions in the summer for children of all ages. There is also a masters program for those over age 20. Race training is the foundation for the camps, with an emphasis on free skiing and free skiing drills. Designated for intermediate and advanced skiers, campers must have basic ski skills to attend.

Ski training is conducted in the morning, followed by windsurfing, rock climbing, rafting, swimming, hiking, mountain biking and go-cart racing in the afternoon. Details: 800-453-6272 or www.skicamp.com.

• The Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall holds numerous outdoors events, including a monthly "Tracking Club," that meets in Sultan on the third Saturday of each month now through May from 9 a.m. to noon.

The program is open to naturalists, hunters and people curious about learning to identify, follow and understand stories written in tracks left by animals on the Skykomish River shoreline. Details: 425-788-1301 or www.wildernessawareness.org.

• The Washington Trails Association offers statewide trip reports and trail conditions. Details: www.wta.org.

• The Northwest Fly Anglers offers various public classes through the year. The public also is invited to club meetings on the third Thursday of each month, at the Haller Lake Community Center, 12579 Densmore Ave N., in North Seattle. Details: 206-684-7524.

• The Emerald Sea Dive Club offers year-round activities including the big buddy program and weekly and monthly dives. The club meets on the first Wednesday of every month, 7-9 p.m. at Alfy's Pizza, 4820 196th S.W. in Lynnwood. Details: 425-775-2410 or www.emeraldseadiveclub.org.

• The Seattle Audubon Society offers field trips and classes every month. Details: 206-523-4483 or www.seattleaudubon.org.

• Northend Bassmasters is accepting new members who want to learn more about bass fishing. The group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Crystal Creek Cafe, 22620 Bothell-Everett Highway (Canyon Park) in Bothell. Details: 206-789-4259 or e-mail Gary Millard at glmillard@comcast.net.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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