CSKT Propose Gill Netting on Flathead Lake; Spring Mack Days to Launch

By Beacon Staff

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is proposing to remove roughly 30,000 non-native lake trout from Flathead Lake this year using gill netting. The tribes published a final environmental impact statement in the Federal Register on Feb. 21 and the public can comment on the document until March 21.

The tribes want to reduce lake trout numbers with the objective of eliminating enough of the predatory fish to make the lake more survivable for native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.

The Tribal Council is expected to issue a record of decision approving the project soon afterward, setting up gill netting to begin as early as April.

As a separate form of reducing the lake trout population, the CSKT is hosting the annual Spring Mack Days, beginning March 14. The tournament features 34 days of lake trout fishing on Flathead. For more information visit the Mack Days’ website.

According to the tribes, the proposed gill netting project aims to increase harvest of lake trout beyond the status quo level by authorizing the use of additional harvest tools, including bounties, trapnetting and gillnetting to achieve the goals of the Flathead Lake and River Fisheries Co-Management Plan.

A plan is being drafted with a goal of removing up to 100,000 lake trout this year through general angling, fishing events and gill netting, according to tribal officials. The 30,000 gill-netting goal could be adjusted based on angling success.

The tribes are pursuing the most aggressive of four alternatives outlined in the environmental impact study, which calls for removing up to 143,000 lake trout every year. The tribe wouldn’t be required to remove 143,000 lake trout, Hansen said.

Lake trout have become the dominant predator in Flathead Lake.

While the tribes say the reduction is necessary, state officials say the bull trout population is 50 percent above what they call secure levels, and the co-management didn’t call for gill netting lake trout at that level.

Comments should be submitted to Les Evarts, CSKT Fisheries Program Manager, P.O. Box 278, Pablo, Mont., 59855. The FEIS is available for public review at the Tribal Fisheries Office, 408 6th Ave. East, Polson, and an electronic version of the FEIS can also be viewed at the Mack Days’ website and at the Flathead Lake EIS website.

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