To the editor:
Imagine Phillips Reservoir again being a trout fishery reminiscent of decades past, but also providing a bonus of a warm water fishery. It is possible. The scenario to achieve this will likely involve a combination of management actions.
It is highly unlikely that a single action such as a rotenone treatment would be feasible or successful in creating a productive and sustainable trout fishery. Although a chemical treatment is viewed by some as the silver bullet, the reality is that it will be many, many years, if ever, before the reservoir would be treated with rotenone. The studies, data collection and public input, culminating in an environmental impact statement, would be very expensive and take years. More importantly though, is that a single rotenone application is unlikely to kill every perch in the reservoir and all of the ponds throughout the tailing piles. Repeated and expensive treatments every 6-8 years would be needed to sustain the trout fishery many desire. And even if a single treatment is successful, what is to prevent future illegal introductions.
A combination of actions, some of which have already been done, such as perch seining and ODFW's stocking of larger trout, has resulted in some improvement in the trout fishing, as well as larger perch. There are other possibilities such as management favoring species that prey on perch. Smallmouth bass come to mind first. Hybrid predator fish also have been used successfully in neighboring states to control panfish and rough fish populations, with limited impacts to trout populations. Non-reproducing hybrids can be very effective controls since they have voracious appetites and there is no chance the species will take over a lake. Fishable populations of predator species and especially larger perch, would also provide additional angling opportunities.
I commend the county commissioners for addressing the Phillips Reservoir problem. The reservoir has the potential to provide more recreational and economic benefit than it currently does. The perch over-population problem is similar to the county's noxious weed problem. It is unlikely that we will ever eradicate problem species, but we can control the impacts through management. I hope the study committee works closely with ODFW to develop realistic management alternatives for the reservoir that result in a sustainable trout and warmwater fishery.