Native Trout vs. Lakers in Flathead Lake: Conservation Alert from Montana TU

by Mark McGlothlin on June 28, 2013

in Water Worth Saving


From Montana TU yesterday –

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are seeking comments on a draft environmental impact statement that evaluates options to benefit native trout by  reducing lake trout numbers in Flathead Lake.  Competition and predation from lake trout has resulted in drastic reductions in the cutthroat and bull trout populations in the lake and the connected populations found in the North and Middle Fork Flathead Rivers. Currently the tribes have been counting on a twice-a-year tournament – Mack Days – along with recreational angling to help reduce lake trout numbers so that the native trout can bounce back. But it is clear this isn’t doing the job. Bull trout and cutthroat numbers continue to be much lower than historically.

The tribes are now proposing to augment recreational angling with limited gillnetting of lake trout – an approach vetted in scientific peer reviews and that many agency and academic fishery professionals support. This is where you come in.

Contact the tribes and in your own words, tell them you support Alternative D, the proposed option that will double the number of lake trout harvested because:

  • Bull trout and cutthroat trout populations are too important and need help.
  • This alternative will  produce the quickest and most effective help for our  native fish.
  • This alternative  leaves plenty of lake trout — more than a million fish — in Flathead Lake for anglers.
  • By reducing predation from lake trout, this alternative will  provide enhanced  angling opportunities both in the lake and in the Middle and North Forks.
  • The alternative allows for adaptive approaches, such that if gillnetting doesn’t produce expected results or if unexpected impacts emerge, the program can be easily adjusted.
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and a handful of commercial lake trout enthusiasts are spreading irrational fear that limited gillnetting will be disastrous — without data to back their claims — and so it is important to tell the tribes you support their responsible, transparent and scientifically based proposals to restore native fish.

Bull trout and cutthroat trout in the Flathead region are an important part of Montana’s natural heritage. It would be a shame to see their numbers continue to diminish.

You can help! Tell the Tribes you support increasing lake trout harvest in Flathead Lake.

The comment deadline is August 5th, 2013.

Send comments to:

Les Evarts
Fisheries Program Manager
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Via Email:
(When emailling, please put “Flathead Lake DEIS comment” in the subject line.)


By Mail: P.O. Box 278, Pablo, Montana 59855

Download the full DEIS here (it’s a whopper).

Image via The Montana-Yellowstone Geologic Field Guide Database. That’s the lake looking northeast toward Glacier NP with Kalispell lying in the valley in the upper left of the image.