ASHLAND — Rainbow trout and largemouth bass continue to do battle at Hyatt Lake, and the bass are winning.
State fish managers have disbanded their fingerling stocking program for now at the high-mountain lake east of Ashland, instead stocking 25,000 legal-sized trout to jump-start the fishing season that opens April 24 here.
The problem is that largemouth bass have overrun the lake and turned rainbow fingerling into fin-licking good food for themselves, thus hampering the trout fishing there.
"It's a temporary stop-gap," says Dan VanDyke, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District fish biologist. "We've temporarily stopped the release of spring fingerling because they don't appear to be surviving."
Instead, the lake this year will primarily be a largemouth bass lake. "And these bass are a good group to choose from, as far as taking home fish for the table," VanDyke says.
The trout-bass conundrum dates back to spring of 1990, after the lake was poisoned with rotenone to rid it of millions of illegally stocked brown bullhead catfish that overpopulated the lake and killed its ecosystem much the same way tui chubs murdered Diamond Lake in the 1990s.
At that time, the ODFW resumed Hyatt Lake's popular fingerling trout stocking, but agency biologists added some largemouth bass, as well.
The bass were initially seen as insurance, capable of gobbling up any bullhead that survived the treatment. Over time, they grew into a fishery of their own.
In spring, Hyatt faithful troll for trout with Triple Teasers or Tasmanian Devils, often spiked with a piece of night crawler.
When the bass get active in July, anglers have learned to fish small spoons, spinners or plugs. My mid-August, the largemouth will bite virtually anything in the tackle box.
Though the largemouth are plentiful, most are anything but large.
VanDyke says an over-abundance of one- and two-year classes of largemouth have created conditions where the lake does not produce enough food for all to grow at normal rates.
Thus, large schools of bass remain stunted at around 7 inches long.
"There's no question that year class or two of largemouth bass at Hyatt are dominating the fishery," VanDyke says. "They should be dying off and our thought is we'd return to an equilibrium."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.