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Group culls carp to clear Vancouver Lake’s water

Reducing population of nuisance fish could help tame toxic algae blooms

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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Conan Reutov, left, hauls a carp out of Vancouver Lake on Wednesday with the help of Arty Kuzmin.
Conan Reutov, left, hauls a carp out of Vancouver Lake on Wednesday with the help of Arty Kuzmin. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Something is muddying the Vancouver Lake waters, causing toxic algae blooms and regular closures. A lake advocacy group is hoping to fix that.

Friends of Vancouver Lake recently hired a small commercial fishing crew to net carp. Fishers have been netting over the past week and plan to return in May, part of what will be a multiyear effort to substantially reduce the population of the invasive species at the lake.

The common carp is known to inhabit shallow bodies of water with moderately flowing or standing water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It’s regarded as a pest fish due to its abundance as well as its tendency to destroy vegetation and stir up sediment, increasing water turbidity.

The fish were introduced to the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. A sea captain in 1880 in Troutdale, Ore., received a shipment of 35 carp, which spawned to about 7,000 by the end of the year.

In the following year, several thousand of them escaped from the nursery into the Columbia River.

The Friends hope removal of a large portion of the carp population at the lake will cut down on regular toxic algae blooms, caused in large part by the sediment stir-up. A similar carp-netting effort took place last year at Moses Lake.

“We want to remove that source of agitation to the largest extent possible,” said Kathy Gillespie, co-chair of the Friends group. “The carp absolutely do not belong here.”

The advocacy group is paying the fishers $1,500 for each day they spend on the lake.

“That’s a substantial amount for our group,” Gillespie said. “Every fish that hits the boat is one less to disturb the sediment.”

Anton Reutov of Spokane has been netting at the lake over the past week with his son Conan Reutov and Arty Kuzmin. He has also netted at Moses Lake.

Reutov said carp have generally been smaller at Vancouver Lake — under 10 pounds — than up north. He has fished for carp for roughly six years, typically keeping them for consumption or giving them away.

“Basically, it was a hobby, and now it’s become a full-time job,” Reutov said.

Gillespie said that roughly 2,000 fish had been removed by the end of the day Wednesday. The largest daily total so far is 347, and Wednesday showed signs of promise with the catch of female and larger fish — closer to 25 pounds.

The Friends plan to have the fishers return intermittently over the next three to five years.

Last year, the Friends paid roughly $150,000 for successful treatment of Eurasian milfoil. The weeds had been a nuisance to rowers, become tangled in boat motors and inhibited swimming.

The advocacy group is also keeping an eye on curly-leaf pondweed, another invasive species that has been spotted around the lake.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter

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