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New management needed for net pens

 

Volunteers work the net pens on Banks Lake in Electric City in April 2014. - Carl Russell photo

An operation that forms the basis of the Banks Lake fishery could be in jeopardy if someone isn't willing to step into its leadership.

Promoters of Wildlife and Environmental Resources (POWER) is looking for a volunteer to manage its Electric City net pen operation.

The effort began some 30 years ago when Reg Morgan and Bill Brashears decided to do something to make Banks Lake a superior fishery. Their vision resulted in some 300,000 Rainbow trout a year moving through POWER's fish pens into Banks Lake.

The vision was developed over the years by Carl Russell, an Electric City resident, who gave some 25 years as manager until last spring when he announced at the club's annual meeting that he was retiring from the fish pen operation. Russell is 79. It appeared at that meeting that the club had a successor when Bill Hancock stepped forward and said he would take Russell's place.

A couple of weeks ago, Hancock informed Russell that he couldn't continue in the position because of a health issue.

The position must be filled by a volunteer in order to get grants for different parts of the operation, Russell said.

"I've done it for 25 years," he said. "If it's important to the community, somebody needs to step up."

POWER receives some 150,000 rainbow trout fingerlings twice a year, in the spring and in October, and then releases them when they are from six to 10 inches long.

That is the foundation of the Banks Lake fishery, Russell said. The rainbow grow and provide some excellent fishing results for people who hit the lake with rod and reel, but they also provide the food necessary for other more aggressive species to grow and add to the value of the fishery.

The last release was in early June, when over 150,000 fish were added to Banks Lake. That bunch weighed 1,700 pounds when received in April and 5,131 pounds when released.

Russell has been manager of the operation and was in the process of teaching Hancock the nuts and bolts of the fish pens.

POWER is searching for someone to step forward and take over management of the fish pens.

Russell said the pens, feeders and feed shack constitute about $100,000 in value, much of the money coming from the community back in those early days of Morgan and Brashears, when they had coin cans located throughout the community.

A new manager would have a handful of volunteers, most of them members of POWER, to help keep the fish pen operation going.

Russell has said that he again will help train someone to take over the fish pen operation, but needs to find someone before October, when the pens receive another 150,000 fingerlings from the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department.

Russell said if a manager can't be found, he believes Fish and Wildlife will end the program and take the net pens out.

The operation is financed by grants from the Aquatic Land Enhancement Account of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, given for two years at a time. The grant application is due again next spring.

The manager is needed to see that the schedule of volunteers is maintained and to see that the feeding and growing operation is handled in such a way that the fish are protected.

Anyone interested in managing the fish pens is asked to contact Russell at 509-633-0648 or 509-631-4322.

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