LETTER: World Class Fisheries Threatened Again

By Beacon Staff

It has come to my attention that Bonneville Power is likely going to provide funding for the very controversial gillnetting of lake trout in Flathead Lake.

Attached is my written comments sent to the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe (CSKT) after a public hearing in Pablo on Aug. 1:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment in writing. I attended the public hearing in Pablo recently to learn about the Lake Trout project. Unfortunately, the presentations were all one-sided with no opportunity for discussion of the shortcomings of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. There were no public comments permitted. Since it was a draft, it would have been a good opportunity to use public input to improve the document. The purpose was to sell a very complicated document without any public input. The speakers were research experts with models that had little to do with reality. When a model conflicts with experience, it raises questions which should be answered. Given the magnitude of this project, comments should have been taken.

Flathead Lake is a world-class trout fishery right now and has a very large impact on tourism in the Clark Fork Basin. More than 15 charter fishing businesses, tourists and local citizens enjoy fishing where they can catch edible fish. We are very fortunate to have a lake where we can take our kids and grandkids and catch fish almost every time. Since we cannot keep bull trout now and not in the foreseeable future, killing a large number of lake trout will have a very detrimental impact on daily catch, especially for the novice.

Contrary to information at the hearing, Mack Days has decreased the daily catch by over 50 percent for many charter fishing businesses. Experts are fishing deep and concentrating on breeding grounds. More lag time will reveal even greater impact because of the size and age of the fish being killed during Mack days.

The bull trout status remains stable with the number of bull trout and redds being more than 50 percent above the stable level developed by the Fish Wildlife & Parks and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe (CSKT) Co-Management Plan. The results between 2006 and 2012 are very solid. I believe that the reason the bull trout numbers remain stable is because bull trout are normally in shallow water and lake trout in deep water.

Contrary to a statement at the hearing about fish going to the food banks, gillnetting has a very significant detrimental impact on the quality of the fish being caught because of the time factor, processing, storage and health regulations. Very few if any of the thousands of fish killed will make it to the food banks.

Over 95 percent (hand count) of the people opposed gillnetting and other efforts to kill lake trout in Flathead Lake during a “packed room” public hearing two years ago in Kalispell. Does CSKT want to be known for destroying a world-class trout fishery? I hope not.

Sen. Verdell Jackson

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