On Sept. 14, men wearing fish suits will arrive at the offices of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Kalispell to voice their opposition to a proposed gill netting project in Flathead Lake.
Tim Shattuck, a guide for Flathead Lake Charters, said the protest will consist largely of lake trout anglers and charter guides, but he is inviting anybody who has opinions on the issue. Shattuck said he has contacted local outdoors stores to see if they’re interested in participating.
“Nobody’s hearing our story, our side,” Shattuck said. “People come a long way to fish and spend a lot of money in our local economy. There are other options. Netting ain’t the right option.”
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are completing an environmental assessment to gauge the potential impact of allowing gill netting in Flathead Lake. The proposal is aimed at reducing lake trout numbers in the hopes of boosting the native bull trout population. Bull trout are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Rob McDonald, spokesman for the tribes, said the environmental assessment will likely be finished in December. The tribes and FWP co-manage the lake together.
Lake trout anglers feel that gill netting would threaten their fishery, and charter guides have argued that their livelihood could be a stake. Gill netting is currently being used as a management tool in Swan Lake.
Shattuck said charters have been conducting petition drives on their boats and have sent “hundreds of letters” to the governor and other state officials.
“If you remove the lake trout, you still can’t fish for the bull trout,” Shattuck said. “What are we going to do, have a dead sea?”
The protest is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 14 at FWP Region 1 headquarters located at 490 North Meridian Road in Kalispell.
“I don’t know how many people we’ll get,” Shattuck said. “But if we have to go down the sidewalk all the way down to Meridian, we’ll do it.”
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