By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“The weather’s been cooperative; the fish have been cooperative. It’s been a great day to go fishing,” said Mike Zimmerman, the ranger who supervises Anderson Lake State Park.
Lines were dropped at daybreak, with 26 people fishing in boats and 15 on shore at 7 a.m., according to state Fish and Wildlife’s Cheri Scalf.
Charles Cox of Port Townsend said he got quite a few bites.
“The fish were healthier, they were meatier, than last year, although they weren’t quite as big,” he said.
Zimmerman reported that 49 people were still fishing with 16 boats at 10:30 a.m.
He said a company testing a new trout lure caught and released 40 fish in an hour and a half on the lake.
Zimmerman advised anglers, or even boaters, to hit the lake quickly, as the toxins created by blue-green algae that plague the lake when temperatures warm are likely to prompt the Jefferson County Health Department to close it as soon as next month.
“If we get three weeks in, we feel like we’ve done real well,” Zimmerman said.
Last year, the lake between Port Townsend and Chimacum closed May 17 because of toxins.
The primary concern, said Michael Dawson, water quality lead for Jefferson County, is anatoxin-a, a nerve poison that can kill within four minutes of ingestion.
“The amount of algae scum we have out there right now is indicating there will be another early closure,” Zimmerman said.
Scum can show thick algae growth, but it is impossible to know whether the algae is producing toxins without laboratory tests of water samples.
For instance, two county lakes — Lake Leland north of Quilcene and Gibbs Lake south of Port Townsend — have visible algae blooms now but are free of toxins, according to tests.
Conversely, a lake clear of scum may be poisoned.
Tests are done for anatoxin-a and microcystin, another blue-green algae poison often seen in East Jefferson County lakes that can cause skin irritation if touched and liver damage if ingested over a long period of time.
When lab tests determine the amount of toxin is found to be above the state recreational guideline of 1 microgram per liter of water, then rangers will not allow anyone on the lake.
“The first thing you do when you fall into cold water is to take a big gulp,” Zimmerman said.
“We don’t want people doing that.”
Anderson Lake has been tested for toxins since two dogs that lapped water from the lake died Memorial Day weekend in 2006.
In June 2008, the 60-acre lake set a world record: 172,640 micrograms of anatoxin-a per liter.
The latest tests, from samples taken April 21, found 0.3 micrograms of anatoxin-a per liter in Anderson Lake water.
That’s well below the danger level. But it also is higher than the 0.09 micrograms per liter found in the samples taken a week earlier April 14.
Researchers don’t know what causes certain species of blue-green algae — which occurs naturally and usually is benign — to suddenly begin producing toxins.
They do know toxin levels can rise in the summer because the warmth fuels algae growth when sufficient nutrients such as phosphates are present.
Anglers who pull trout from the lake are advised to handle them carefully.
Once the fish are eviscerated, carefully dispose of their entrails in a manner that ensures no pets or wildlife can eat them.
Zimmerman also advised those with cuts on their hands to wear latex gloves while gutting fish and to rinse them thoroughly and remove the skin before eating.
Signs are posted on the lake to warn anglers to be careful with the fish.
For more information about Jefferson County lakes, visit http://tinyurl.com/jeffersonlakequality or phone the office at 360-385-9444.
Toxin-producing blue-green algae has not been spotted in Clallam County. Report algae blooms in Clallam County by phoning 360-417-2258.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Port Townsend/Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant contributed to this report.