Henry's Lake looking great for 2006!
From the Island Park News March 10, 2006
FYI: Bill Scheiss is 'the man' for and about Henry's Lake!
Fabulous fishing awaits Henry's Lake anglers this yearBy BILL SCHIESS
Fishermen's dreams of catching lunkers in Henry's Lake should come true this summer, by the looks of the annual Hatchery Creek spawning run into the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's hatchery facility at the lake that started in late February. The hatchery is on Hwy. 87 around four miles west of U. S. 20.
Cutthroats are the targeted fish of the run's management operation, and they are accompanied by cutthroat/rainbow hybrids.
"These are the largest numbers of big hybrids that I have ever seen in the run," said hatchery manager Damon Keen, as he held a 30-inch male hybrid. "We usually see them out in the lake (caught by fishermen), but seldom in the hatchery."
Early data from the spawning run is encouraging to Keen. Besides the large hybrids that are swimming up Hatchery Creek, cutthroat numbers are also up from the past few years. In the first two weeks of the run, 1,784 cutts and 323 hybrids were counted in the hatchery. This compares to a total 2,297 cutthroats counted in the 2005 spawning run.
"It started a little slow, probably due to cold weather," said Keen. "We opened the raceway on February 18, but had to break ice to get the water flowing."
Egg quality appears to be good, also.
"Usually when the water quality is good, so are quality of the eggs," said Keen.
Egg quality is critical in the production of fingerlings to be released in the fall to populate this world famous lake as well as other bodies of water.
The lake level is at an all-time high at 97 per cent full, allowing the fish an easier passage into the spawn house and helping the lake water retain dissolved oxygen levels. These dissolved oxygen levels are important to egg quality and fish longevity. For example, the recent fish kill at Mud Lake was created by the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water.
Keen is well on his way to reach his goal of harvesting 2 million cutthroat eggs for the production of 1.3 million fingerlings and 500,000 eggs for the production of 200,000 hybrids. The first eggs were taken for the hybrids. In the first two spawning days, 720,000 eggs were taken. All were fertilized with rainbow milt, creating one and a half times the goal. In the first two days of spawning for the production of cutthroats, Keen, along with helpers, took more than 800,000 of the two million egg goal.
"The numbers we are seeing come into the hatchery are allowing us to take more eggs than planned," he said. "I am encouraged."
"It started a little slow, probably due to cold weather," said Keen. "We opened the raceway on February 18, but had to break ice to get the water flowing through the raceway."
Keen plans to spawn every Tuesday and Friday to get the required eggs from the cutthroats. He also sorts fish according to species and sex almost every morning for one to two hours, depending on how many fish ran into the hatchery house over night. Now there are about 100 running into the hatchery house daily.
Visitors are welcome to watch both operations A call to the hatchery at (208) 558-7202 would allow Keen to plan for a visit. Volunteers are also welcome to help with the spawning process if an appointment is set up.
Keen is optimistic about the 2006 season. With the number of large fish taken last season as well as the increase in the catch rate, and with the large fish showing up at the hatchery, 2006 looks like it will be a banner year.
Last season, the age classes of two- and three-year olds were good. Hopefully, that will transmit into three good year classes, along with some big hybrids and brook trout mixed in with them this season.
One- and two-year old cutthroats are not mature enough to spawn, so Keen does not see them in the hatchery. As soon as the ice is off the lake, Keen, with the help of others, will run gill nets to get a good population count of all age classes of fish.
"Spawning gives us a good indication of the older fish in the lake," said Keen. "But the gill netting shows a better picture of the total fish population except for the very large fish. Our nets are not designed to catch many of those."
"I'm as optimistic as I have been in the five years I have been here," he said. "I am impressed with the number of cutts over 20 inches and the size of the hybrids again."
Hopefully the run will remain strong and the lake will continue to produce the trophy fish that fishermen desire. Keen as well as many fishermen are anxious for the season to start.