Thousands of dead fish washed up on the shore of Lake Stevens, and now the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is taking heat.
Boaters on Lake Stevens on Thursday noticed the foul odor first and then the unsightly carcasses.
“At first, I thought they couldn't be bait. They had to be something else,” Karen Jordan said as she and her husband loaded up their boat.
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Whatever they were, they were a nuisance.
Seasoned fisherman immediately recognized them as kokanee salmon, and knew that their dying off was not only a nuisance but a costly mistake with the power to change the way fisherman use Lake Stevens.
"Two or three years from now, we're not going to have the fishery like we do out here,” Zack McGlothern said.
McGlothern is a fishing guide and a longtime lover of Lake Stevens.
Every year, the Department of Fish and Wildlife ensures the fishing industry on the lake is protected by stocking it with more than 150,000 kokanee. This year, it did that Tuesday and, by Wednesday, thousands of the fish were dead.
"When I heard they were planted two days ago, after a couple (of) 80 or 90 degrees (days) -- you're planting them in water that is above their lethal level,” said McGlothern, who has a degree in fishing and aquatic sciences.
He and the department agree that kokanee need water temperatures around 50 degrees to survive and flourish, and WDFW also told us by phone that doing the plant this week was risky, given the heat.
"They are supposed to do it earlier in the spring when the water is cooler, like, around June,” McGlothern said.
The department said that was the plan but that there were logistical conflicts.
McGlothern said he pays the department to stay on schedule.
"They use our licensing fees to do these stocking and hatchery programs and this is our money they've wasted due to negligence,” he said.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife said it believes around 10,000 fish were lost and the department want to make it right.
It will be stocking the lake again this fall with another 160,000 kokanee.
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