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Recovery from pike infestation limits fish retention

Redoubt Reporter

Several lakes on the central Kenai Peninsula treated for invasive northern pike are showing signs of native fish recovery but fishing is still restricted in 2022.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the restrictions today, for Stormy Lake in Nikiski and East and West Mackey, Sevena, Union and Derks lakes in the Soldota area.

For Stormy Lake, the bag and possession limit of Arctic char/Dolly Varden is one fish, less than 16 inches in length. Fish that are 16 inches or greater must be released.

Stormy Lake was treated with rotenone in 2012 to eradicate an invasive pike population. The treatment, while not harmful to humans, is indiscriminate to fish, so Fish and Game harvested eggs from native Arctic char and reared them in the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery. The resulting fingerlings were released back into Stormy Lake in 2013.

Fish sampling in 2019 and 2020 has shown that some of the released char have reached maturity and are spawning, but Area Management Biologist Colton Lipka said the population still needs some protection.

“So we’re just protecting the larger fish in order to just keep spawning up and keep those big fish in the lake,” Lipka said.

The lakes in the Soldotna Creek drainage are taking longer to bounce back.

Lipka said Fish and Game is still in the process of releasing fish into the Soldotna Creek drainage lakes — primarily rainbow trout and some coho. Those fish, about 92,000 so far, are being captured in Soldotna Creek and released into the lakes.

“Those ones, we have another two years of reintroduction, and then, from there, we’ll monitor to see how quickly it comes back. We have a little bit of some spawning and habitat limitations that we’re looking at,” Lipka said. “But whenever you do such a large-scale project, such as the East, West Mackeys, Sevena, Union — that whole Soldotna Creek drainage. These things do take quite a bit of time. And we do treat them individually based on how each system performs during the rehabilitation process.”

Sportfishing will be allowed in East and West Mackey, Sevena, Union and Derks lakes in 2022, but catch-and-release, only — no retention.

If you are looking to catch and take home some fish, there are plenty of other lake options.

“We have many great ice fishing lakes in this neighborhood. Down in Kasilof, we have Johnson Lake. Out toward Kenai, we have Island Lake and then also Elephant or Spirit Lake. If you’re looking for some variety, there’s Hidden Lake, where you can go get after some lake trout. So, besides just our stocked lakes, there are many options out there. We always advise people, just be safe, check your ice, and have a good time,” Lipka said.

And make sure you get your 2022 fishing license. As of Saturday, Jan. 1, you need to release your current license and catch and retain a new one.

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