What is wrong with White Lake and what needs to be done about it depends on who is talking.
A May 21 meeting hosted by the White Lake Residents Association (WLRA) heard differing theories and recommendations.
In his report on the meeting, WLRA president Bryon Every says local angler Alf Davy gave his in-depth view of the changes that have taken place in the last 10 years.
“Alf gave a lot of attention to the beaver dam issue and explained in great detail the importance of the natural cycle that the trout should be allowed to complete,” reports Every. “Alf explained the need for the fish to return to their place of hatch in order to retain the species’ existence and health.”
But Steve Maricle, senior fish biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, believes goldfish are the culprits and increasing the number of trout fry that enter the lake will likely mean that increased competition for food will result in small, thin fish.
In terms of the overall fishery, Maricle says he sees a real conflict of opinions.
“Some people say it’s fine and others say, no it’s not,” he said Monday. “There’s no question the gold fish are coming back for some reason – they were kind of gone in 2009.”
Maricle says Fisheries was thinking of trapping them in order to find them because none were evident, a surprise considering the high numbers seen the previous year.
“I fully knew they were coming back and for the time it’s taken them, the (trout) fishery has been getting better, better than 2009,” he says, noting he is now getting reports of big schools of gold fish. “People are finding fish in the stomachs of the trout. They’re feeding on them, but they won’t control them.”
Maricle says if the density gets too high, the trout fishery will crash somewhat.
“We may have to consider looking at another salmonid species that can compete with the goldfish,” he says.
“People who are traditionalists don’t want a bandaid fix, they want the trout fishery to thrive.”
But nothing would go forward without Maricle seeking input from several interested groups including the White Lake Residents Association.
“The trout fishery is good (right now) but I do think it will collapse again,” he says, explaining that carp, the species to which gold fish belong, is the highest invasive species in B.C. lakes.
Before Fisheries officials consider options for White Lake, studies will be undertaken to try to gather more information.
A Thompson Rivers University student has been hired to look at vegetation changes and assess stomachs taken from trout caught.
WLRA volunteers have been given sample kits and will carefully cut the stomachs out of fish, preserve them with alcohol and freeze them for transport to TRU for assessment.
“They will date them and compare it with whatever data we can find on the lake,” he says. “I don’t think we have much invertebrate data on White Lake. We will compare what should be hatching and what the fish should be feeding on given the time periods.”
Every, meanwhile, says the overall consensus of those at last week’s meeting was that “speculation has no place in the judgments or decisions that need to be made at White Lake.”