Phillips perch plan has real potential
Yellow perch, we're confident in predicting, will swim in Phillips Reservoir so long as it holds more than a few gallons of water.
What's not guaranteed, though, is that the spiny-finned perch will continue to predominate in Phillips as they have for the past 15 years or so since someone illegally released the fish.
In fact, after hearing a group of local volunteers lay out their anti-perch strategy last week, we think it's likely that rainbow trout will at least start to regain their former position at the top of Phillips' piscatorial ladder.
The sharpest arrow in the quiver for Phillips Reservoir Committee is a net.
As many as 10 nets, actually.
Committee members hope to pull those nets through Phillips' chilly water next spring and capture hundreds of thousands of perch.
The committee's plan is the best we've heard, and for two main reasons:
n It has worked before in the reservoir.
During the springs of 2004 and 2005, Idaho's fish and game agency used nets to gather about 300,000 perch from Phillips. The agency trucked the perch to Cascade Reservoir near McCall, Idaho.
Taking all those fish out of Phillips didn't solve the perch problem the fish reproduce so efficiently that their numbers rebound rapidly but some anglers said they caught more trout after Idaho had culled the perch population.
n It's comparatively cheap and simple and requires neither poison nor a lengthy environmental impact statement.
Frank Bishop, chairman of the Phillips Reservoir Committee, figures a couple of nets and associated equipment will cost about $16,000. The committee also hopes to borrow nets from Idaho, and get grants through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to buy nets.
Although poisoning Phillips with rotenone, a chemical that kills all fish, seems an attractive option, it's one fraught with problems.
A couple years ago ODFW used rotenone to rid Diamond Lake, in the Cascades near Crater Lake, of its infestation of tui chub. Yet the Diamond Lake project cost about $6 million and took six years.
We can't imagine ODFW spending a tenth as much money on Phillips, which attracts less than one percent as many anglers as Diamond Lake lures.
Phillips plays a larger role in Baker County's economy than those statistics suggest, though. At least in did in the past when anglers regularly hooked limits of thick rainbow trout.
In 1981, anglers at Phillips contributed an estimated $1.56 million. By 2007 that figure had shrunk, adjusted for inflation, to a piddling $86,000.
The Phillips Reservoir Committee also recommends ODFW release tiger trout in the reservoir. Tiger trout don't reproduce, but they do eat perch.
Adding predatory fish to Phillips could help to pare the perch population. Still, we think it's likely that netting perch will prove the more effective tactic.
So effective, in fact, based on Idaho officials' experience a few years ago, that the Phillips Reservoir Committee has been pondering ways to use the tons of perch they expect to catch.
One idea, Bishop said, is to chop the perch into fertilizer. This would, we're sure, slake many anglers' thirst for revenge and enrich the local soil, besides.
We'll add just two words to the fertilizer proposal: