I stumbled on this new piece of regulation for the Flathead River the other day and it got me scratching my head. I thought the primary concern in our drainage was to protect native cutthroat and bull trout? How does protecting pike fit into this plan? Pike are invasive and prey on migratory cutthroat and bull trout as they pass through the system and visit the sloughs on their historic journey to and from the lake each year. Research in the past has shown pike to be a threat to to the native fish populations, so why protect them when we should be doing the opposite? Don’t get me wrong, I like fishing for pike. But we have lots of lakes that offer pike fishing that don’t threaten our stronghold of native cuttroat and bull trout in the Flathead river system.
There are currently efforts to suppress rainbow and cutbow(cutthroat-rainbow hybrids) populations on the main-stem of the Flathead by ways of shocking to remove these fish from the system. You can read about it here. This project has been ongoing since 2000 and we haven’t noticed any signs of reductions in rainbow or hybrids in the Flathead River. If you fish the river at all then you know there are plenty of rainbows and cutbows in the system still. We catch them almost every outing. I’m all for projects to help maintain cutthroat genetics but protecting pike at the same time seams counter productive. Isn’t it time we shift our efforts to invasives? After 15+ years shocking and killing rainbow and cutthroat trout(less than 90% pure) out of the river, maybe focusing efforts on invasives would be worth a try? At the very least opening up pike to all means of catching and zero limits might help a few more cutthroat and bull trout make their journey to and from the lake? For those of us who fish the river we all agree we could use a few more cuttroat. Maybe focusing some shocking efforts for pike in sloughs during the spawn would be a worthy project? They did it in Milltown with great success so why not here? I am confused… What is our goal here on the Flathead? If it’s to preserve our native fishery then we have to address all the threats and not just hybridization. Invasives are a real and growing problem. We haven’t made any efforts to address the pike population in the system, that needs to change.