Fisheries Officials Seek More Input on Walleye in Noxon Reservoir

By Beacon Staff

Fisheries officials are seeking public input on the walleye population in Noxon Reservoir and possible suppression efforts of the nonnative fish species.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is revising its draft environmental impact statement on proposed suppression of walleye after public opposition flooded in during the past scoping period.

Numerous comments were received in support and opposition to the project, and some substantive issues and information deficiencies were raised. FWP subsequently released a decision notice on the project with the determination that a revised draft EA will be developed and again released for public comment.

Based on threats posed to the fisheries of the lower Clark Fork River and state policy, FWP is continuing to pursue walleye suppression on an experimental basis to test effectiveness. Several issues, listed below, were identified by FWP and the public during the previous comment period.

Issues that will be addressed in the upcoming revised draft EA include:
Impacts to sport and native fish including bycatch of nontarget fish species
Public controversy generated by the project
Impacts to the local economy under the “No Action” alternative
Funding availability to complete the project
Origin of the introduced walleye
FWP responses to illegal fish introductions
Potential waste of game fish
Long-term nature of potential suppression

In addition to these issues, FWP is seeking public assistance in identifying additional issues pertinent to this project. FWP invites the public to comment on this project; specifically, issues not listed above and information sources that may aid in analysis would be especially useful.

Walleye were illegally introduced into Noxon Reservoir in the late 1980s. Since their introduction, fisheries managers have been concerned about the negative impacts of walleye to the Noxon Reservoir and downstream fisheries. Annual gill-net monitoring beginning in 2000 indicated that the population was successfully reproducing and numbers were increasing.

In anticipation of a suppression program, FWP initiated a life history study beginning in 2004. Completed in 2010, this study suggests that most, if not all, spawning occurs in a small area at the head of the reservoir. In February 2013, FWP released the draft environmental assessment to investigate the suppression of walleye in Noxon Reservoir to solicit public comment.

Comments and questions must be received by Nov. 30, and can be submitted to Kenneth Breidinger at [email protected] or Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, PO Box 95, Thompson Falls, MT 59873.

RELATED: Are Walleye Welcome in Noxon Reservoir?

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