LETTER: FWP Must Respond to Illegal Fish Introductions

By Beacon Staff

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has met with public opposition over their plan to suppress illegal walleye in Noxon Reservoir. In response, Region 1 said they “will most likely respond by drafting a new EA and providing more public inclusion.”

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear; the population of invasive walleye in Noxon Reservoir is a result of illegal activity. These fish were planted by bucket biologists with flagrant disregard for state law. It has long been the policy of our fisheries managers that illegal aquatic wildlife plantings will be dealt with harshly. State policy says that, if feasible, FWP “shall attempt removal at the earliest possible date.” The current Montana Statewide Fisheries Management Plan for Noxon Reservoir calls for the department to “suppress illegally introduced walleye from the reservoir as possible.” The guidance of the law is clear, this is not a matter for public debate.

Noxon Reservoir supports economically important populations of bass, perch and northern pike as well as native wild trout populations. All of these resident fish populations are put at risk by the growing walleye population. Walleye introductions, illegal and otherwise, have impacted sport fisheries across the West. A recent news article pointed out that FWP is placing used Christmas trees in Canyon Ferry Reservoir to improve perch populations that have been decimated by predatory walleye.

We cannot condone illegal introductions in our waters and fail to respond appropriately. Not acting to remove walleye from Noxon Reservoir will only be seen as a reward for bucket biology and encourage more unlawful introductions. A thriving walleye population in Noxon will also become a source for the spread of this species to other locations west of the divide and will eventually spread downstream threatening neighboring states and causing problems for valuable steelhead and salmon spawning areas in the Columbia Basin.

Chris Schustrom, president
Flathead Valley Trout Unlimited

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