- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - The Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes want to remove about 30,000 non-native lake trout from Flathead Lake this year using gill netting.

The Daily Inter Lake reports (https://bit.ly/1k3Pzos) in a story on Friday that the tribes published a final environmental impact statement in the Federal Register on Feb. 21. The public can comment on the document until March 21.

The Tribal Council is expected to issue a record of decision approving the project soon afterward, setting up gill netting to begin as early as April.

“This is not a blind charge forward,” tribal biologist Barry Hansen said. “It is the same progression we’ve done for the last 14 years with a new tool (gill netting) that we will apply carefully and incrementally. And there will be plenty of opportunity for people to see the results.”

The tribes want to reduce lake trout numbers with the objective of eliminating enough of the predatory fish to make the lake more survivable for native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.

The tribe is drafting a plan with a goal of removing up to 100,000 lake trout this year through general angling, fishing events and gill netting, Hansen said. The 30,000 gill-netting goal could be adjusted based on angling success.

The tribes are pursuing the most aggressive of four alternatives outlined in the environmental impact study, which calls for removing up to 143,000 lake trout every year. The tribe wouldn’t be required to remove 143,000 lake trout, Hansen said.

Lake trout have become the dominant predator in Flathead Lake and river system. Lake trout were introduced in the early 1900s and have over the decades replaced bull trout, which experts say only number about 3,000 adults now.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks initially was involved with development of a draft environmental impact study but dropped out over various concerns involving creating the study.

State officials say the bull trout population is 50 percent above what they call secure levels, and the co-management didn’t call for gill netting lake trout at that level.

But the tribes say gill netting is necessary.

“Increasing native trout, that is the real and meaningful goal to us, not ‘secure,’ ” Hansen said.

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Information from: Daily Inter Lake, https://www.dailyinterlake.com


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