State and federal wildlife officials plan to start netting invasive lake trout from Swan Lake in northwestern Montana so that native bull trout can survive.
The three-week netting program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks begins Monday and runs through Sept. 10.
Anglers discovered lake trout in Swan Lake in 1998, the same year bull trout were listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Wade Fredenberg of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serve said lake trout diminish bull trout populations by taking over the habitat, and often make meals of young bull trout.
This year’s netting effort is the second year in a three-year program aimed at removing thousands of lake trout. Last year, about 5,200 lake trout were netted and removed, most going to local food banks.
Besides removing lake trout, agencies have spent millions improving bull trout habitat. Still, Fredenberg said bull trout numbers will continue to slide unless lake trout are removed.
He said biologists are targeting lake trout spawning areas with nets after discovering those locations by fitting captured lake trout with transmitters. They found that lake trout spawning areas are concentrated in just five acres of the 2,700-acre lake.
Biologists also managed to mostly avoid capturing bull trout last year by knowing when bull trout leave the lake to spawn in streams, Fredenberg said.
He said biologists are also working on a system that would target the lake trout eggs nests.
Biologists say work at Swan Lake could lead to a solution to dealing with nonnative fish in nearby Flathead Lake. However, that could face opposition as some anglers enjoy fishing for lake trout.
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