ROSEBURG, Ore. — Ten years ago, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials purposely poisoned Diamond Lake. They weren’t acting out of pure evil, however, but as a way to eradicate the invasive species that had been destroying the lake’s ecosystem, the tui chub fish.
The tui chub had been illegally introduced to the lake several years before and the population soon swelled to millions of fish, taking over the lake and causing toxic algae problems and poor water quality. Fishing was also very poor, as the chub had eaten most of the food that was usually eaten by the stocked rainbow trout, reported The News-Review (http://bit.ly/2dxhDUm).
“We went through a lot of different reviews and options of what was the best way to get Diamond Lake back to being a good fishery with a good water quality,” said Dave Loomis, who had been the watershed district manager for the Umpqua at the time.
ODFW decided the best way was to pour rotenone, a naturally occurring compound from the pea family, into the lake to suffocate its gill-breathing inhabitants, ridding the lake of tui chub to give it a fresh start.
Almost 200 people were involved in the rotenone treatment, and in just a matter of days, the lake was fishless. After draining the lake to 8 feet deep, the crew let it refill and sit until the following spring, when all the rotenone had dissipated and it was safe to restock it with fish.
“So 2007 was very good fishing. People caught a lot of fish, anglers came back to the lake that hadn’t been there in years, there were a lot of smiles on people’s faces and the water quality had improved,” Loomis said. “It was very enjoyable to see the lake rebound and come back to the way it had been before the chub were there.”
Jerry Chartier, an avid fisherman at Diamond Lake, said the lake has been pivotal in his life. Since he was 12, he had wanted to be a game warden there, so at the age of 23 he accomplished his dream and became an Oregon state trooper for fish and game.
“Diamond Lake was always a great lake and a great fishery, then along came the tui chub which pretty much ruined the lake as far as fishing,” Chartier said.
He said the lake came back very strongly until Loomis retired and another program was used to manage the lake. Chartier, who disagreed with this different method, said ODFW implemented a new stocking program with a catch limit of five fish.
“Most of the time you can catch your limit and have a wonderful day at a beautiful lake that is nothing but spectacular with the surrounding scenery,” Chartier said, adding that the drive between Roseburg and the lake is one of the most beautiful drives in the country.
He recently fished there with his 89-year-old uncle, who caught his limit of rainbow trout.
“At that moment, when that day at Diamond Lake ended and he had his five fish, there was only one word to describe it and that’s priceless,” Chartier said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about family and having a great time.”
Chartier said the people at the lodge are wonderful, stellar people who lend their good advice for catching fish.
“We were very excited to have it restored and the fishing came back very well and the water quality came back very well,” said Stephen Koch, president and general manager at Diamond Lake Resort.
This wasn’t the first time the lake had been treated with rotenone. It had experienced the same problems and had undergone the poisoning in 1954. Two years later, Koch’s father bought and reopened the newly restored lake resort.
“We really appreciate the effort from everybody when they stepped up to prepare the lake. It was a disaster to the water quality and to the economy in southern Oregon, so we were really happy to have it back,” Koch said.
If it gets cold enough this winter, the lake might also be open for ice fishing, Koch said.
Though there have been some ups and downs over the years and some tui chub have been put back in the lake illegally as bait, Loomis said the fishing has been good at Diamond Lake.
“It was actually very good fishing this year and it’s the best fishing I’ve seen in Diamond Lake in probably 20 years,” Loomis said. He called the lake a great fishery where families can rent boats and catch some fish.
“I just thank everybody after 10 years for helping Diamond Lake get back to being the gem of Cascades and I hope everybody enjoys it into the future,” Loomis said.
Information from: The News-Review, http://www.nrtoday.com