In an effort to protect native kokanee and rainbow trout, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is stepping up rewards for anglers catching walleye in Lake Pend Oreille in the second year of the walleye lottery program.
The program's goal is to prevent walleye from threatening native trout populations, not to eradicate them from the lake.
The program, which started in March 2019, runs year round. The agency updated the lottery prizes in May this year, just before the Memorial Day holiday, Kiira Siitari, the agency's regional communications manager, said.
The reward program is funded through the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, a 1999 arangement between Avista and 26 other parties to protect, mitigate and enhance natural resources in the lower Clark Fork and Lake Pend Oreille areas.
The program offers two ways to earn money from turning in heads of this popular sport fish. In the program's first year, 50 of the fish were implanted with a microscopic tag worth $1,000 each, although none were found. For each walleye head submitted, anglers are entered into a monthly drawing for 10 $100 rewards; all of these were paid out, for a total of $9,000 over the first year's nine-month run.
This year, chances of catching a fish worth $1,000 doubled, with an additional 50 walleye implanted with the tags and released.
The agency released data from the last year's lottery, which ran March-December 2019, to help guide fishers in their quest. A news release on the fishing lottery notes 41 percent of the walleye caught last year were found in the northern half of the lake, where the water is generally warmer and shallower. Twenty-nine percent were caught in the Pend Oreille River and 25 percent in the Clark Fork River.
"In early May, walleye anglers were finding fish in the Clark Fork River and on the Clark Fork River Delta. Now that the walleye spawn is predominantly over, the Clark Fork and Pack River deltas and the shallow warming bays toward Sandpoint should be good bets in the coming weeks," fisheries research biologist Pete Rust said in the news release.
In addition to the angler lottery, the agency conducts three weeks of netting during spawning season. Last year, anglers submitted 785 walleye heads, almost as many walleye as biologists netted.