Or just more unnecessary meddling in an fish ecosystem that’s already turned upside down from previous
mismanagement management decisions? I’m sorry, but I start right off being cynical just about anytime I see Region 1 fisheries management proposals any more. This one is actually a continuation of an ongoing program but lets take a look at what they would like to continue doing.
FWP proposes to continue removing hybrid and rainbow trout from the mouths and channels of Abbot, Sekokini, Rabe, Ivy, and Third Creeks in the mainstem and the North Fork of the Flathead River. Trapping and electrofishing would be used to catch fish during their spawning season (April-May) and move them to community fishing ponds. FWP would also electrofish between July and September to remove hybrid and rainbow trout offspring. The goal of the proposed suppression effort is to minimize the loss of westslope cutthroat trout populations in the Flathead River system.
The goal of the proposed suppression effort is to minimize the loss of westslope cutthroat trout populations considered to be conservation populations, especially the genetically pure portions, in the interconnected Flathead River system. “Conservation” populations, as defined by the Memorandum of Understanding and Conservation Agreement for Cutthroat Trout in Montana (FWP 2007), are those that contain less than 10% hybridization based on genetic data (i.e., are > 90% genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout). It is not possible to eliminate hybrid trout from a large, interconnected river drainage such as the Flathead. Nevertheless, results from experimental suppression work suggest that it is possible to reduce the number of rainbow or hybrid trout adults in targeted source populations and help FWP to maintain the current number of identified conservation populations at a level of 90% westslope cutthroat trout or better.
A relative reduction or maintenance of hybrid and rainbow trout numbers, given equal effort over time would indicate success at reducing the number of spawning adults. Although genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout will likely continue to be lost due to hybridization with rainbow trout in the interconnected Flathead River system over time, information from suppression efforts so far indicate that FWP may be effective at reducing the rate and magnitude of that loss. Evaluation of our stated success criteria will occur within six years at the earliest, when one generation of fish will be complete. Ten years will provide a more comprehensive window to reevaluate the status of hybridization spread.
Ok. So the whole project revolves around saving the genetic purity of the all mighty Westslope Cutthroat, one of Montana’s native trout. The other being the Bull trout. A noble cause. My question on a project like this is, where are FWP Region 1 priorities? Are they suffering from amnesia, forgetting that the lake trout are eating their way up the main stem and into the tributaries of the North Fork right now. Do lake trout not eat westslope cutthroat along the way or just rainbows and hybrids? In ten years will it really freaking matter whether or not they have preserved 90% of the cutthroats genetic purity if the lake trout have decimated their numbers to such an extent that they have “become locally extinct (extirpated) in the North Fork, Middle Fork, and mainstem of the Flathead system” anyway? They’ll share the same fate the bull trout has. Is the rate of hybridization out pacing the rate the lake trout are overrunning the entire river system? I think not. The lake trout are there now and they don’t give a s**t what color their food is.
The total cost of this program for a year is just under $10,000. So, it doesn’t sound like a lot of cash but if you add it up over time- 10 years, that’s $100,000. Well over the cost of $86,000 that it would cost for a season of lake trout gill netting on Swan Lake, just as an example. Is there not a project somewhere in region 1 that might actually benefit from another 10K a year until these guys can actually figure out what the hell it is they are doing? If they are going to actually do something about preserving our native trout, then do it. Base it on real science, not politics money and government welfare. If they can’t do that at least leave the damn hybrids in the river for the fishermen to catch. Comments on this project are open until March 8.