Fish Transplanted in Jewel Basin Lakes

By Beacon Staff

A helicopter with a bucket used for fighting fires stocked about 4,000 westslope cutthroat trout in two lakes in northwestern Montana.

Wednesday’s stocking is part of a long-term project aimed at eliminating the threat of rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroats interbreeding with native westslope cutthroats in the South Fork of the Flathead River drainage.

A fish toxin was used last fall to kill all the fish in the 49-acre Black Lake and the 16-acre Blackfoot Lake, both in the Jewel Basin. Hybridization had been detected in those lakes and 19 others in the drainage. The project will target those lakes over the next decade.

Wildlife officials say the lakes were stocked 1- and 2-year-old cutthroats, while more 1-year-olds will be stocked in the next couple weeks and fingerlings stocked later in August.

“When it’s all said and done, we’ll have 5,000 fish in Black Lake and about 2,000 in Blackfoot Lake,” said Matt Boyer, the project leader with the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The fish were raised at the Washoe Park State Hatchery in Anaconda and trucked Creston Fish Hatchery.

The helicopter carried out the stocking operation with just one trip to each lake.

Boyer said both lakes were monitored after the fish were delivered.

“We had rafts so we were able to go out on the water and check for mortality,” Boyer said. “Out of all those fish, we were able to find one dead fish.”