IFPAG: Inland Fish Policy Advisory Group

     The Inland Fish Policy Advisory Group (IFPAG) is one of several citizen advisory boards providing public feedback to WDFW. IFPAG’s advice is non-binding on WDFW management, but IFPAG nevertheless offers the freshwater sport angling community a valuable opportunity to influence WDFW policy and budget decisions. Members are appointed by the director to 2-year terms and most represent fishing clubs or have related business (e.g., resort owners). IFPAG covers all non-marine fisheries, which means they’ve got trout, salmon, steelhead, and warmwater people together in the same group.

     Don Wittenberger was appointed as an at-large member speaking for tiger muskie anglers, but after Muskies, Inc. Chapter 57 was organized, he was designated as the club’s legislative/policy liaison person, and now sits on IFPAG as the Tiger Muskie representative. In general, in IFPAG meetings, he represents all the TM clubs’ position, not his personal views. 

Tapps Lake Survey Discussed At 3/22/14 IFPAG Meeting

Postby Don Wittenberger » Mar 22, 2014 

WDFW's Inland Fisheries Policy Advisory Group (IFPAG) met in Olympia today, and one of the agenda items was a discussion of the Tapps lake survey, which WDFW conducted on Oct. 21 - 23, 2014.  The survey report isn't posted on WDFW's website yet, but eventually will be.

Lake Tapps is a somewhat unusual environment. It's an artificial impoundment that was constructed more than 100 years ago to generate power, and now is owned and managed by a consortium of municipalities as a water supply. The recreational fishery has always been secondary to these other purposes, and will remain so. The lake is fed by snowmelt, so the incoming water is cold, full of silt, and low in nutrients. During the cold months, the lake's water volume is substantially reduced because of the winter drawdown. In summer, heavy boating traffic stirs the water, adding to turbidity. This turbidity makes it difficult for sight-feeding fish to find prey, in a lake that isn't much of a food factory to begin with. Now add heavy shoreline development -- urbanization, if you will -- and you don't have a very fish-friendly environment.

These conditions are beyond WDFW's control, and are givens for fish management purposes, because WDFW can't do anything about them. WDFW's fish biologists and fisheries managers have to work with what's there, and their hands are largely tied in terms of trying to make the fishery more productive. The only real management tool they have is fishing regulations.

The survey revealed that most of Lake Tapps' fish population is stunted. Virtually all of the yellow were smaller than the national-average perch size. The same is true of the other prey fish species, and the phytoplankton and zooplankton on which they feed also are undersized. This is a result of environmental conditions in the lake and can't be fixed through fisheries management.

The survey indicated the tiger muskies have reduced the population of large-scale suckers, their preferred prey -- which is no surprise -- and otherwise are a neutral factor with respect to the lake's biomass. Rainbow trout have been stocked in the past, and a put-and-take trout fishery could coexist with the tiger muskies, if funding for rainbow trout stocking could be found. WDFW didn't commit to such funding or reintroducing rainbow trout at the IFPAG meeting, but Olympia politics being what it is, it won't surprise me if money and trout magically appear further down the road. This principle of constituent relations is known as "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." These trout will be catchables, and their average longevity in the lake will be approximately one week, so a food supply for them isn't really a problem. From the viewpoint of the property owners whose grandchildren are fishing from the dock, the hungrier they are the better.

From our viewpoint, the most important thing is the survey disclosed no reason to interrupt the tiger muskie stocking, and WDFW appears committed to continuing to manage a quality tiger muskie fishery in Lake Tapps. We shouldn't take it for granted, though. It will always be important for tiger muskie anglers to maintain good relations with the property owners, to listen to their concerns, and above all to respect their property rights. The last thing we want to do is antagonize them. The smartest thing we can do -- and what we should do -- is be good listeners, be supportive of their wants, and educate them about our fishery ... and how much fun we have stalking "tigers." Bring on the trout!