The most aggressive suppression alternative under the CSKT draft EIS is projected to reduce spending on lake trout angling by less than 12 percent. It would reduce lake trout catch rates by only 0.25 fish per hour over 50 years. A recent editorial, citing no data or economic studies, guesstimates that this small change will decimate the local economy.
Let me remind you that lake trout have already caused millions of dollars in damage to our local economy and continue to do so. We had the best lake fishery in the state based on kokanee salmon. During the 1990s, lake trout ate their way through more than 15 million kokanee, exterminating that fishery. Flathead Lake fell from the No. 1 lake fishery in the state to No. 13. Flathead Lake supported as many as 170,000 angler days each year. In 2011 the lake produced only 33,000 angler days.
With a population of more than 1.5 million fish, over-population is driving lake trout into the surrounding watershed. Lake trout have invaded 10 lakes in Glacier National Park, driving several native fish populations there to functional extinction. We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove lake trout from Swan Lake and the rest of the Swan drainage to save some of the native fish still left there. The CSKT plan would remove at most an additional 73,000 lake trout annually.
We lost a popular, family-friendly fishery for bull trout in the Flathead River and tributaries because of lake trout. Today, you can be legally prosecuted for even fishing for this native fish. You are required to release every native westslope cutthroat you catch while lake anglers can catch and keep up to 100 lake trout per day. Lake trout already cost much more than we can afford.
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