More invaders found in Diamond Lake

ROSEBURG — At least one nit-wit hasn't heard the $5.6 million message that non-native species can ruin Diamond Lake, which was reclaimed from unwanted tui chubs less than two years ago.

Nets set in the lake last week collected 11 golden shiners and one unidentified fish, the first invasive fish found since the lake was poisoned to reclaim the lake for rainbow trout and the thousands of anglers who target them.

The shiners, all about three inches long, likely were used as fishing bait — the same modus operandi that brought shiners and chubs to the lake decades ago.

"To me, it's really disappointing," says Laura Jackson, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who took part in the Diamond Lake restoration project. "We're definitely not excited to see that."

Golden shiners are a small fish native to eastern North America. Widely popular as a bait fish, they are one of the most common fish farmed in the United States.

The use of live bait and the transportation of live fish between bodies of water without a permit are banned in Oregon.

Shiners were documented in the lake as early as 1981 and never overwhelmed the lake like the hundreds of millions of chubs did before the September 2006 treatment, Jackson says.

Still, the grim discovery puts Jackson and others on notice that the fight against illegal invaders will never end at Diamond Lake.

"We really, really want the public to become our eyes and ears and help us look for that (illegal) activity," Jackson says.

Thursday's discovery resonated with shock waves through the Diamond Lake Resort, which limped through 13 years of bad fishing before the lake was studied and treated to the tune of $5.6 million.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," resort general manager Steve Koch says. "The worst thing is, if someone's messing with something out there, that's very, very scary."

ODFW, resort workers and Umpqua National Forest employees have ramped up efforts to educate people about accidental introduction of non-native species to the eastern Douglas County lake.

Boat-wash stations are at the lake, and the Umpqua Forest this year is requiring tournament anglers to wash their boats clean of mussels, insects or aquatic vegetation before launching.

"We watch as much as we can, but it's a big lake," Koch says. "There needs to be more ODFW people and other folks watching out there."

The chubs were discovered in trap nets set near the landowner cabins at the lake, Jackson says. Because of their size, it was unclear whether they were used as bait and escaped last year or earlier this year, she says.

The ODFW plans to follow up next week with more netting and electro-shocking to see whether more shiners are in the mix.

Eleven of the fish were positively identified as shiners, Jackson says. The 12th fish was not yet positively identified but could be a shiner as well, she says.

Umpqua Forest officials also are investigating the shiners' discovery, but the fishes' presence is not considered a crime, says Jeff Dose, the forest's fish biologist.

"At the present time, we have no idea how they got there, whether it was a crime or whether the rotenone didn't get them all," Dose says.

"Invasive species are just showing up and they can be devastating," Dose says. "It seems so easy to prevent them instead of treating them."

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