The Lake Trout Battlefield Expands

By Beacon Staff

Infested: “to overrun a place or site in large numbers and become threatening, harmful, or unpleasant.”

A recent letter to the editor composed by my friend and fellow Flathead Valley angler LaVerne “Lucky” Stultz, and published in several area papers, used this term to describe what lake trout have done to Swan, Lindbergh and Holland lakes. As tends to be the norm when individuals and organizations feel passionately about certain things, overstatement and outright fabrication creeps into otherwise logical arguments.

I just this week was involved in a field project to catch and radio tag spawning adult fish to determine what extent lake trout have inhabited Lindbergh Lake. Prior to this, no studies, counts or other viable, statistically sound efforts had been conducted in Lindbergh or Holland lakes, yet they are being claimed to be INFESTED with lake trout!

I would say that, due to my personal, actual involvement, spending two long days searching for and using proven successful angling techniques to harvest these fish, that it is far from “infested.” In fact, all the fish we caught were concentrated in a small area of the lake, were of an obviously small group of age classes and, for the most part, confined to an area where one would not expect to find lake trout.

Furthermore, Lucky goes on to state that “we are on the verge of losing several bull trout sub-populations in the North Fork.” Inferring that the cause of this is lake trout, I find it interesting that one of these streams with low population counts is slated for some major habitat work if the EIS for this work is approved, and more than likely, there is much more work to be done in most of these streams as far as habitat is concerned, a likely reason for low population trends.

And lastly, Lucky’s claim that “Montana FWP has thrown up their hands and declared defeat” is an outright misrepresentation of their position! In fact, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is claiming SUCCESS in the fact that the downward spiral of bull trout in the 90s and early 2000s has slowed, the population is secure and stable, and these aggressive lake trout suppression efforts are UNNECESSARY!

In a 2012 radio interview I conducted with Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited, he advised all concerned individuals to “ignore the bar talk” of individuals whose feelings and emotions may get in the way of the facts, and trust the data and the science. Much of Lucky’s editorial was factual, but when it comes to the items addressed above, a lot was just “bar talk.”

I implore everyone to learn more about this process and make your comments known. My blog at www.aablefishing.com will point you to some resources.

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