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jaystraw

Poisoning Pike??

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I just found this new story out of California. Apparently they are going to poison a whole lake to kill off Pike to stock it with trout...wow!

Angling for a solution: Ridding Lake Davis of northern pike is more than a conservation measure. For the businesses of Portola, it's an economic necessity.

Jon Ortiz

Sep 03, 2007 (The Sacramento Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --

The northern pike infesting nearby Lake Davis is a predator so voracious that it sometimes chokes to death trying to eat other fish. As business owners in this eastern Sierra Nevada mountain town know too well, pike also can devour your livelihood.

For more than 10 years, grocery stores, hotels and restaurants here have felt the pike's bite. The carnivorous fish has twice overrun Lake Davis, spoiling its reputation as one of the West Coast's premier spots for rainbow trout and bleeding the local economy of millions of fishing tourism dollars.

State wildlife managers poisoned the lake in 1997 despite bitter protests and legal challenges over environmental and health concerns. After officials restocked it with trophy-quality trout, fishing boomed on the lake for about a year.

Then, in 1999, the pike resurfaced in Lake Davis. Fishing fell off. State officials have worried ever since that the fish might escape, move downstream and devastate native fish in the Sacramento River and the Delta.

Now authorities are about to shut down Lake Davis and poison it again. Local business owners whose income has dwindled with the lake's shrinking trout population are cautiously putting their faith in the state's $16.7 million plan -- but there are no guarantees. Many remember the promises a decade ago that poisoning Lake Davis would kill the fish for good.

"Businesses are holding their breath and hoping for the best," said Suzi Brakken, director of Plumas County Visitors Bureau. "The lake has been sitting there, empty of visitors for several years. People are tired of the issue. They just want to get it over with."

After the Department of Fish and Game and federal officials close Lake Davis this week and poison its shallow, weedy waters, they'll wait for the chemicals to disperse. Once the water tests safe for fish, they'll start restocking for next spring's fishing season and launch an aggressive marketing campaign to promote Lake Davis angling and area merchants.

"I'm confident in DFG. My only question is, 'What the hell took so long?' " Sara Bensinger said recently during a slow afternoon at her 1,000-square-foot grocery store on Lake Davis' south shore.

She bought the store, a restaurant next door and campground behind it eight years ago. Two weeks after she took over the business, officials announced that the pike were back.

As the pike took over, trout fishing suffered. State monitoring showed in 2000 that it took about four hours, on average, to catch one Lake Davis trout. By 2003, it took nearly 10 hours.

"It's even worse now. Before the pike, it was definitely a Grade A lake," said Dan Bacher, managing editor of the Elk Grove-based angling publication Fish Sniffer magazine. "Now it's a C, maybe a D depending on the time of year."

As fishing dried up, Bensinger's sales plummeted. The campground is almost never full.

"It got so slow that I closed the restaurant," said Bensinger, who keeps the business alive with money from real estate and other investments. "My sales have dropped 90 percent. This place has become a ... ball and chain."

State officials and local business owners have debated for years how much Lake Davis means to the local economy. The dispute goes all the way to the California Legislature's 1998 approval of a $9.1 million settlement for businesses injured by what wildlife officials concede was a fumbled effort.

"That settlement wasn't enough," said Fran Roudebush, a Lake Davis activist and former Plumas County supervisor. "Some businesses say that they've never recovered. I believe them."

California State University, Chico, researchers estimate that anglers pumped around $550,000 into Plumas County in 2005. Restaurants, gas stations, hotels and motels hooked most of that business.

But that's down significantly from what local businesses took in before the pike, said David Gallo, one of the Chico State economists behind the 2005 study.

"Fishing visits to the lake have fallen 50 to 60 percent from the peak," he said.

Roudebush and local business owners have argued the countywide study underestimated Lake Davis' value to the region, especially to Portola, which is seven miles from the lake.

State officials, who have carefully cultivated better community relations this time around, responded by hiring an accountant to gather more data from merchants and an appraiser to analyze the pike's impact on local real estate values.

Lawmakers could use the information to determine how businesses have been affected and whether to make payments to the local community. Wildlife officials note that there's no guarantee that the state will make another payout.

"We're trying to walk a fine line between capturing information and conveying to people they're going to get money. That's not up to us," said Fish and Game project manager Ed Pert. "We want to make sure that folks don't have some perverse motivation to do this again."

Experts think Lake Davis' pike infestation started more than 20 years ago when the fish was illegally dumped into Frenchman Lake, about 15 miles to the east.

The fish swam to Lake Davis, where the lake's saw-toothed western edge, for decades a food-rich haven for fish, became a killing ground. Pike use the shallow water's heavy vegetation to lie in wait and ambush trout.

The last time state officials poisoned the lake, Portola residents and business owners angrily protested. Other lakes, including nearby Frenchman, have been successfully poisoned to kill predator fish, but the 1997 stab at ridding Lake Davis of pike was the first time a town's water supply had been the target.

This time the dissent is more muted. Business owners say they've been pummeled by the slipping fishing economy. The city in 1997 switched to well water, which state and local officials closely monitor.

The most vocal opposition has come from Save Lake Davis, a group that blames the 1997 poisoning for some unexplained local illnesses, including higher rates of cancer and learning disabilities. Research has indicated otherwise, Fish and Game officials say.

Like many parts of California, the housing boom earlier this decade brought in waves of transplants. They don't have the vivid memories from the first poisoning, unlike "the old guard that is trying to keep it a hot-button issue," said Portola Realtor Bob Lundquist.

"I'd say 60 percent of home buyers know about the pike, and disclosure rules mean that sellers have to reveal any details that may affect their property," Lundquist said. "It doesn't keep people from buying here. This is a nice place to live."

The upcoming lake closure and poisoning offers one immediate payoff: 550 state employees who will live and work here for the next month.

Fish and Game has budgeted about $540,000 for food and lodging through Oct. 5, said department spokesman Steve Martarano. The state has contracts with four hotels and arranged food vouchers with several restaurants.

"Those amounts will be augmented by additional staffing requirement before and after the treatment periods, so the total will be considerably more," Martarano said.

Economists figure Lake Davis' return to glory eventually will inject more than $1 million per year into Plumas County's economy.

"Good fishing would bump up visits pretty fast," said Chico State economist Gallo. "I think it will turn around, especially with positive publicity."

Fishing guide Bryan Roccucci already is looking ahead to trolling next spring on a restocked lake free of pike.

As the owner of Big Daddy's Guide Service, he used to load six anglers at $150 per person per day into his 23-foot Boulton boat for trout trips on Lake Davis.

"The fishing was so good back then that you felt guilty about keeping a 4-pound rainbow (trout)," said Roccucci, a burly man with a salt-and-pepper goatee and a deep suntan from days spent on the water. "You knew that if you threw it back, you'd catch a 6-pounder in the next 30 minutes. It's not like that any more."

Lake Davis trips once accounted for more than a third of his business. Now Roccucci rarely goes there. The downturn forced him to shift his focus to other nearby lakes.

And last spring, much to the chagrin of state wildlife officials, he offered pike "catch and kill" runs on Lake Davis, hoping the fish's reputation as a hard-hitting fighter would recapture some of his lost business.

"Don't get me wrong. I support eradicating the pike," he said. "But I've got to make a living

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From what I understand it was local fishermen that were responsible for stocking the lake with pike. Just goes to show you shouldn't mess with mother nature.

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I think that is the same lake that FishChris and 4bizz have recently fished. They are poisoning the lake due to the pike being a non-native species.

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I read the article, and I'm not really for or agianst the whole thing...I just thought it was wild that they are going to poison a lake to get rid of a fish they do not desire.   Seems extreme, but I've only read this article and do not know the whole issue.

We have Pike up here and they do not rule the lake to the detriment of the other species, including trout.

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I'd think that people would love to go up there to catch some pike. FishChris took a little trip up there a few weeks back, though only catching one, he said he had fun.

If that place was even open another 2-3 weeks I would plan a trip up there too, I'd love to catch a pike.

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I think it's F'N garbage. I hate seeing cases of man killing of unwanted natural things just for "economical reasons" Give me a break. I think it's morally wrong, but the dirty dollar prevails again. I don't understand why the community doesn't just switch their trout fishing economy to a pike fishing economy. I am not for poisoning waters what so ever. I feel bad for the people who's businesses suffer, but they shouldn;t resort to killing of many fish, they should use their brains and come up with a better idea. Like I said, why not just market the "unbelievable pike fishing" Get some pike fishing guides up there, and business will come back.

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I really have no knowledge of California aside from what I hear, but my understanding is that trout fishing out there is (to most) the best thing since sliced bread.

Think about the number of trout the DFG puts in the water out there.  Although it is perfect for fattening up those greenbacks, the primary purpose of those trout is put-and-take fishing for the majority of the population.

I am sure the Cali guys could give you a ratio of trout fisherman to bass fisherman (roughly) and my guess is that there is a large percentage the fish strictly for trout.

Wayne

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I saw something in the news a couple years ago where a cal. town did the same thing. Killing off 20 to 50 poumd pike because they were depleting the trout population. Bottom line,,,if they had any common since, the town would have realised that people from the mid-west would have "vacationed" for one or two weeks there for the experience of catchin those pike. Bottom line... idiots don't see the financial advantiges of offering a chance of following a dream that increased local inome.

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poisoning any body of water and kill all the fish is no solution >:(  they should just let nature take its course, in solving the problem.

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I love in the article where it says that the Pike were likely introduced by anglers......

What is more likely.....Pike were introduced by the same people that are claiming to have lost tourist money.

Introduce another species of fish to appeal to a broader reange of sportsmen....therefore increasing tourism and adding another season.

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It's gonna be funny if this doesn't work and the pikes make it's return again.

I'd love to catch a pike one day...haven't done so yet.

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