Montana Approves Commercial Netting at Swan Lake

By Beacon Staff

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has approved an experimental netting project designed to remove non-native lake trout in Swan Lake and upstream waters.

Officials are concerned lake trout could be reducing the number of federally protected bull trout in the lake.

Regional Supervisor Jim Satterfield earlier this month approved the project to permit three weeks of commercial netting that will start by the end of this month. Wisconsin-based Harbor Fisheries will do the netting.

Officials plan to kill all the lake trout that are caught and give the larger ones to food banks or other facilities.

More netting is planned in October and November at known lake trout spawning areas.

Officials in 2007 and 2008 carried out netting programs to find out the size of the lake trout population and the places they spawn. Now the state’s objective is to catch as many lake trout as possible.

“Last year was a random sampling approach whereas this year we’ll be focusing on areas where we have the highest catch rates,” Leo Rosenthal, a state fisheries biologist, told the Daily Inter Lake. “We’re trying to focus on areas where we have the maximum catch rates and a minimum by-catch of other fish, including bull trout.”

Lake trout appeared in Swan Lake in 1998, and have since migrated upstream into the Swan River drainage. Officials fear lake trout could eventually get to Holland Lake.

An environmental assessment of removing lake trout from Swan Lake notes the challenges, but says that the “relatively small size, relatively shallow depth, and simple shape … of Swan Lake, as well as the newness of the lake trout population, increase the chances of success in a project of this type.”

Attempts to remove lake trout from Yellowstone Lake and Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille have been difficult.

Rosenthal said the netting project at Swan Lake will be a “learning experience,” and it’s uncertain whether it will be a success.

The project will cost $50,000 to $60,000 a year.