Kress Lake gets planted with channel catfish

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter

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Kress Lake, a former gravel pond near Kalama, has been stocked with 500 channel catfish as part of a state effort to provide a variety of angling opportunities and a trophy-size catch.

Swofford Pond in Lewis County got 2,000 channel catfish in October. Kress and Swofford were the only two waters planted in Southwest Washington.

Fifty-acre Kress Lake had been stocked five times previously and Swofford Pond six times in the past, said Bruce Bolding, warmwater fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The channel catfish came from a fish farm in Arkansas. It was the closest location certified as disease-free and free of aquatic invasive species, Bolding said.

Two truckloads — about 50,000 channel catfish — were brought from Arkansas to Washington’s warmwater hatchery at Ringold near the Tri-Cities. The fish were planted in a variety of lakes on both sides of the Cascades.

Kress Lake is spring-fed pond with no outlet stream.

“We put them in waters where we feel there is minimal risk of interaction with native species,” Bolding said.

Although predators, channel catfish are bottom-dwellers, and not in the portion of the water column used by young salmon, he added.

Most Washington waters are too cold for channel catfish to spawn, he said.

The exceptions are the lower Yakima and lower Snake rivers, plus some sloughs and backwaters of the Columbia River.

“Functionally, these fish are sterile so that gives us precise control over their numbers,” Bolding said. “Plus, we stock them at low densities.”

Channel catfish are long-lived, thus provide a lot of fishing opportunity for their cost, he said.

Lacamas Lake was stocked with channel catfish in the 1990s and still yields an occasional fish, including a 33-pounder in 2005 and 28-pounder in late September.

“Twenty years old is not implausible,” Bolding said. “They can get that old.”

Bolding said the agency hopes to get additional catfish in the next few years and will consider stocking Lacamas again.

“It appears to be a good place for them and anglers are tuned in,” he said.