NESPELEM – In early July, a fisherman caught two walleyes in Buffalo Lake, which is a problem, Colville Tribal Fish and Wildlife director Randall Friedlander told the Colville Business Council’s Natural Resource Committee, Tuesday.
The predatory walleye are non-native to interior lakes of the Colville Reservation, as they are in all waters of Eastern Washington.
“We don’t stock walleye in Buffalo Lake,” said Friedlander. “They haven’t been in there, so somebody has apparently moved them there. They think they can manage the lake better than we can.”
Walleye are a primary predator, CTFW’s Holly McLellan told NRC, noting in the San Poil bay a recent CTFW study showed walleye eat 90 percent of the juvenile kokanee annually produced.
“We have really nice kokanee [in Buffalo Lake],” said Friedlander. “We have rainbow [trout]. I believe there are some bass in there, but they stay on the warmer end of the lake. It hasn’t been an issue so far. But we definitely don’t want people think they can move fish around. It is against the law. We have tribal code that says you can’t do that.”
“The kokanee fishery in Buffalo Lake brings in a lot of money to the community. A lot of people travel just to fish for kokanee in Buffalo Lake,” said McLellan. “If you want a kokanee fishery, we’re going to have to deal with the walleye. We have to send a message that it’s not okay to move fish around the reservation or anywhere, especially a non-native fish like the walleye that will impact the lake pretty heavily.”
To combat the potential planting of fish in the interior lake, Friedlander suggested requiring non-tribal fisherman to launch their boats from Reynold’s Resort and stationing a staff member at that location to inspect live wells and coolers before boats launch.
Friedlander also suggested limiting a second boat launch on the lake to tribal members only.
McLellan further noted that below Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River the state of Washington’s regulations allow for an unlimited daily limit of walleye, which protects migratory salmon fry. Above Chief Joseph Dam, however, the state limits the daily limit, and McLellan suggested the tribe – as a co-manager of the lake – push the state to remove the daily limit of walleye.
No action was taken in the discussion.
Buffalo Lake is open to non-tribal fishermen with a tribal fishing license year round. The non-tribal fishing regulations show that fishermen are allowed a daily limit of five trout, with a minimum length of 8 inches, and five kokanee of the same length from the lake.
Non-tribal fishermen also are allowed a daily limit of 25 bass, with no more than two over 17 inches in length from the lake.
The lake also allows non-tribal fishermen to trap crayfish from July 1 to Sept. 15.
The daily limit for walleye across the reservation’s open waters is currently eight, with a minimum of 12 inches and only one allowed to be over 22 inches.