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.
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.