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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow ODFW doesn't surrender Phillips Reservoir to perch

ODFW doesn't surrender Phillips Reservoir to perch


Government agencies have a reputation for being plodding, unimaginative bureaucracies rather than inventive risk-takers.

In the main we consider this a fair characterization.

Which is why we have a special appreciation for those rare instances when an agency tries to think its way around the flanks of a problem, rather than bludgeon it head-on with reams of reports that are more likely to hide the dilemma than to solve it.

And so we credit the Oregon Department of Wildlife (ODFW) for its creativity in dealing with the long-standing mess at Phillips Reservoir.

The problem at Phillips is yellow perch.

About a quarter century ago someone illegally dumped perch into the reservoir.

It took less than a decade for the prolific perch to supplant rainbow trout as the reservoir’s predominant fish.

Phillips, once renowned for its lunker rainbows, became known as a great place to fish if you like to catch spiny-finned perch so small you’d need to hook a bucketful to feed a typical family.

But ODFW has not surrendered Phillips to the perch.

Over the past several years the agency, with help at first from Idaho, has trapped close to a million perch.

This fall ODFW plans to release in the reservoir about 10,000 tiger trout, a sterile hybrid that feeds on other fish — including perch. ODFW’s hope is that mature tiger trout will lure trophy anglers the way rainbow trout used to.

ODFW officials also are seeking permission from the state to plant tiger muskies, a much larger species with a voracious appetite for perch.

As with tiger trout, muskies could add a new trophy species that’s more attractive to anglers than the stunted perch.

Sadly, none of these tactics will rid Phillips of perch. The species reproduces so rapidly and proficiently that it can’t be eradicated from a 2,400-acre reservoir.

Not without the use of poison, that is. And poisoning the reservoir is a tool for which ODFW has neither the money nor, most likely, the political capital.

Fortunately, the agency continues to strive to make Phillips something more than a big lake filled with fish that hardly anyone wants to catch.

 
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