Anglers once again will be able to fish for trout in the Lower Illinois River as the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will resume stocking the river near Gore with trout beginning Wednesday.
“We have water again to be asked to be released (from Lake Tenkiller) for management of the trout stream and we have done so,” said Jim Burroughs, east-central fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Wednesday is a normal stocking date for the river. State wildlife officials also will add extra rainbow trout into the river on Friday then return to their normal bi-monthly stocking of fish beginning Nov. 30.
The agency quit putting trout in the river in late September because of a lack of water and poor water quality. However, recent rainfall and runoff have raised Lake Tenkiller to its normal level and the Wildlife Department can now resume using water that has been donated to them by Sequoyah Fuels.
Burroughs said water oxygen levels also improved in the lake in the last 10 days. “The better do’s (dissolved oxygen) with a little bit of sustained flows from our releases we feel like we can start stocking and have hopes the fishery is going to make it,” he said.
All of the water stored in Lake Tenkiller is allocated for hydropower or municipal and industrial water supply. The trout fishery is not entitled to any of it, unlike the situation on the state’s other year-round trout stream, the Lower Mountain Fork River in McCurtain County.
When needed, the Wildlife Department must borrow water from Sequoyah Fuels for the Lower Illinois trout fishery.
When it stopped the trout stockings, the Wildlife Department had borrowed all the water it could.
However, the recent rainfall reset the water storage allocations for all water supply holders, including Sequoyah Fuels. So once again the Wildlife Department can ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from Tenkiller Lake as needed to sustain the trout fishery. At least until the agency runs out of water again.