The Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes and Montana FWP are sponsoring three public meetings April 12-14 to gather ideas for an upcoming environmental review that will address how to reduce lake trout predation on bull and cutthroat trout in the Flathead Lake and River system.  

What anglers should know about Flathead Lake, lake trout and native trout  

In the last 20 years, populations of migratory native cutthroat and bull trout that use both Flathead Lake and essential connecting habitat in the Flathead River and its Middle and North Forks have plummeted. As a result, angling opportunities for bull trout has been completely curtailed for bull trout and severely reduced for cutthroats. Biologists conclude the primary reason for the precipitous drop in native trout is predation from an expanding population of non-native lake trout that occupies Flathead Lake. Lake trout numbers in the catchable range are now estimated to be about 400,000 in the lake. Subsequently, adult bull trout that use the lake and which migrate into the upper river now number only around 2,500 – 3,500 individuals, which is a small percentage of their historical average. In recognition of the problem, the 10-year co-operative plan guiding fishery management on the lake developed in 2000 by the Tribes and FWP sought to reduce lake trout numbers by employing recreational angling and fishing tourneys. Results from this plan, now in its 10th year, indicate not enough lake trout are being removed to speed recovery of bull and cutthroat trout populations.  

Flathead River Westslope Cutthroat

Historically, fish like this were plentiful in the they are rare.

And so the Tribes and FWP are evaluating the potential for additional measures for lake trout removal, including a carefully designed pilot project involving gillnetting. The intention is to reduce the lake trout population further – perhaps by 25 percent or thereabouts — providing an edge for bull and cutthroat trout to increase their numbers, while not eliminating angling for lake trout.   

The Tribes and State want to know what you think and are holding scoping meetings on proposals to increase the removal of lake trout. Meetings will be:  

  • April 12 in Polson at the Kwa Taq Nuk Resort 7-9 pm.
  • April 13 in Kalispell at the Red Lion Inn (20 North Main), 7-9:30 p.m.
  • April 14 in Missoula at the Wingate Inn (5252 Airway Drive) 7:30 to 9:30

What you can do –  Attend one of the meetings or submit written comments and tell the Tribes and State in your own words:  

  • The objective for bull trout and cutthroat trout recovery in the Flathead Lake and River system should be population numbers similar to what they were in the 1980s, before bull trout dwindled to levels necessitating prohibiting angling for them and their listing as a threatened species      
  • The environmental study on additional lake trout removal should include a preferred alternative that supplements angling with effective measures such as gillnetting and trapping.     
  • The environmental study should include an evaluation of how its proposed action will benefit the river system above the lake, including the important recreational and outfitted angling that occurs there for both species of native trout.      
  •  Any personal experience you have with fishing for Montana’s native trout, especially in the Flathead region.  

THIS IS CRITICAL: Submit your comments in the next two weeks to:  

Barry Hansen
project chief Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
 Box 278 Pablo, MT 59855
[email protected]  


Bruce Rich,
fishery bureau chief
Montana FWP
1420 East 6th Avenue
Helena, MT 59620
[email protected]

Jason Lanier
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