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Originally published October 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 29, 2007 at 1:46 PM

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Oregon anglers flock back to revived lake

The anglers are back and happy at Diamond Lake. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife poisoned the Oregon mountain lake last year to...

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ROSEBURG, Ore. — The anglers are back and happy at Diamond Lake.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife poisoned the Oregon mountain lake last year to deal with an exploding tui chub population that had taken over the pristine Cascade Range lake, marred its water quality and ruined a showcase trout fishery.

Now anglers are flocking to the tui chub-free lake to catch some fat fish.

"I haven't touched this water in 12 years," Jim Burford, 57, of Lowell said during a recent trip to the lake. "But I've heard enough about the size of the fish and the quality of the water finally to come back."

ODFW surveys show the fishery has generated far higher returns than estimates in the environmental study that led to last year's rotenone treatment.

The final Environmental Impact Statement anticipated 25,000 angler-trips, a catch of 30,000 rainbow trout and sales of about $940,000 the entire season, which started in August and continues through Halloween.

But through August, an estimated 60,000 angler-trips led to a catch of about 70,000 fish, with anglers spending $2.25 million.

"We all had hopes, but nobody was willing to hope this high," said Mari Brick, an ODFW biologist.

Umpqua National Forest officials, whose campgrounds ring the lake, have seen use rates far above expectations. The same occurred at Diamond Lake Resort, which limped through 15 years of poor fishing before increasing staff by 12 percent this year to 120 employees, resort manager Steve Koch said.

"People were still a little leery at first, but after that we were out of (rental) boats all the time," Koch said. "It was kind of amazing."

The lake has rebounded in other measurable ways. The chub had eaten the insect population down to 6.2 pounds per acre in August 2006. Last month, the lake bed sported 127 pounds of insects per acre. As for water clarity, it was so poor last year that visibility at times measured less than one meter. In late June, the visibility measured 12.5 meters.

"It's still kind of eerie to me," Brick said. "The water's so clear now. There's bugs everywhere. It's amazing. It's a whole new lake."

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The word 'amazing' hadn't been tossed around much at Diamond Lake since 1992, when the illegally introduced chubs were detected. The fast-growing chubs overran the lake and quickly began out-competing stocked trout for food and space.

"The last time I was here we caught one fish among 15 people," Burford said of a dismal trip in 1995. "It was 10 inches long and was as skinny as a toothpick. That was it."

Umpqua National Forest officials, whose campgrounds ring the lake, have seen use rates far above expectations. The same occurred at Diamond Lake Resort, which limped through 15 years of poor fishing before increasing staff by 12 percent this year to 120 employees, resort manager Steve Koch said.

The resort's rental-boat fleet jumped from a sparsely used crop of 35 boats to 50 boats in high demand after anglers learned in May that rumors of the lake's turnaround were true.

"People were still a little leery at first, but after that we were out of boats all the time," Koch said. "It was kind of amazing."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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