Westslope cutthroat restoration project near completion

Print Article

Remember a decade ago when Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wanted to kill the westslope cutthroat trout in several Flathead South Fork lakes in an attempt to preserve their native genetics?

While FWP fisheries biologists believed the project was not only justified but also necessary, there was no shortage of opposition, especially from local anglers.

According to Matt Boyer, FWP mitigation specialist, westslope cutthroat trout, originally described by Lewis and Clark in Montana in 1805, had declined to occupy less than 10 percent of their historical range in the U.S.

Reasons for decline included habitat loss, competition and predation from other fishes, but most importantly, hybridization with rainbow trout.

Over 50 percent of current westslope cutthroat habitat in Montana is in the Flathead South Fork, a drainage where lakes have been stocked with rainbows from 1920-1960.

The Westslope Cutthroat South Fork Conservation Project was initiated in 2007.

The project was funded primarily by Bonneville Power Administration through Hungry Horse Dam mitigation. Additional resources were provided by FWP and U.S. Forest Service.

No tax dollars were used.

After extensive study, and working on only a couple lakes per year, some lakes were poisoned with rotenone, others were “genetically swamped”, meaning over-planted with genetically pure fish.

Lakes receiving rotenone treatment were studied 2-3 years both before and after treatment to assess any negative effects on invertebrates and amphibians. None were detected.

The year following rotenone application, those lakes were stocked with 2”, 6” and 12” genetically pure trout.

The larger fish are catchable and would spawn the following year.

Handkerchief Lake, chemically treated in 2016, also serves as a genetic reserve population site for Arctic Grayling.

The rotenone phase of the Project ended in fall 2017 with treatment of Sunburst Lake.

I applaud Region One FWP for their vision and perseverance in this project.

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

Print Article

Read More Outdoors

For the outdoor enthusiast, the Great Bear has a lot to offer

September 19, 2018 at 8:25 am | Hungry Horse News It was just a rustle in the leaves below the trail, something that barely caught our attention. It was a subtle noise, but one that suggested something in the bushes below that was bigger than just a...


Read More

September fishing is the time for water boatmen

September 19, 2018 at 8:12 am | Hungry Horse News If you really want to catch nice trout while fishing in a lake in September, you’d better have a great pair of legs. Well, I guess that explains why September can be a tough month for me! Wait a mi...


Read More

Federal judge stops grizzly hunt, for now

September 04, 2018 at 8:43 pm | Hungry Horse News U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen last week issued a temporary restraining order to stop a grizzly bear hunt near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Idaho. Grizzly bears number about ...


Read More

Yellowjackets? Here’s some trap ideas

August 29, 2018 at 7:57 am | Hungry Horse News If you’ve waded along shorelines, fished around lily pads, or even tried to eat outdoors, you’ve been harassed by yellowjackets. No doubt the best way to control these pesky wasps is to find their h...


Read More

Contact Us

(406) 892-2151
PO BOX 189, 926 Nucleus Avenue
Columbia Falls, MT 59912

©2018 Hungry Horse News Terms of Use Privacy Policy