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In recent times, local anglers have had something to cheer about as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) initiated an innovative program to stock hatchery surplus winter steelhead into our local lakes. These surplus steelhead, who have already made the journey back to hatchery programs, are now finding a new purpose, offering anglers a thrilling opportunity.

The Lifecycle of Hatchery Surplus Steelhead

Before we delve into this exciting program, let's take a moment to understand the lifecycle of these hatchery surplus steelhead. These fish start their journey as tiny fry in a hatchery, raised until they reach smolt size (typically at age 2). At this stage, they are released into rivers and streams, where they embark on their migratory journey to the ocean. Steelhead spend a significant portion of their lives (one to three additional years) in the saltwater before returning to their natal rivers to spawn.  

However, the surplus steelhead being stocked into our local lakes are no longer needed for hatchery programs. The WDFW recognized the opportunity to repurpose these fish to create additional angling opportunities while also addressing concerns about their impact on native steelhead populations.

Once surplus steelhead reach hatcheries, the WDFW has a vested interest in ensuring that they do not continue upstream and potentially spawn with natural origin (native) steelhead. WDFW has worked to mitigate the potential impacts of hatchery fish spawning naturally by integrating their hatchery programs with natural origin fish.  The intent is to collect as many of the returning hatchery fish as possible but if/when a hatchery fish does spawn with a wild fish the population impacts are lower. This action is crucial to safeguard the genetic integrity of native steelhead populations and protect the delicate balance of our aquatic ecosystems.

Why Our Local Lakes?

The WDFW identified Black Lake and Radar Ponds as ideal locations for stocking these surplus steelhead. What makes these choices particularly prudent is that they are not connected to waterways leading to other systems containing native steelhead or other anadromous fish. Therefore, stocking these lakes with surplus steelhead not only provides local anglers with exciting new fishing opportunities but also ensures that the surplus fish won't impact native populations.

A Win-Win Opportunity

This innovative program represents a win-win scenario. Anglers in our community can now enjoy the thrill of targeting steelhead in local lakes, an experience that was once reserved for the river. Moreover, the absence of native anadromous fish in these lakes means that surplus steelhead can thrive without ecological conflicts.

Additionally, it's worth noting that stocking lakes with fish is not without cost, but the stocking of surplus steelhead lies outside the regular expenses of stocking trout. It's an added benefit that enhances our local fishing experience without additional financial burden.

The hatchery surplus steelhead program is a fantastic opportunity for both anglers and the environment. By redirecting these surplus fish into our local lakes, the WDFW has created a second chance for them to contribute to our community, providing anglers with thrilling opportunities!

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