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FWP seeking input on proposed suppression of lake trout in Swan Lake to benefit bull trout, kokanee populations

| June 5, 2024 12:00 AM

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public input on a proposal to reduce the lake trout population in Swan Lake to improve bull trout and kokanee salmon populations.

Once home to a large, stable bull trout population and popular kokanee fishery, Swan Lake has seen significant declines in abundance of both species while lake trout numbers have increased considerably. Bull trout spawning nest counts in 2023 revealed the lowest number on record in the Swan.

With a duty to conserve native species, FWP is proposing to remove non-native lake trout through gillnetting efforts until lake trout numbers are sufficiently low enough to improve bull trout and kokanee salmon numbers.

FWP outlined the proposed plan with a draft environmental assessment that is available to review online at https://fwp.mt.gov/news/public-notices. FWP is seeking public comment on the proposal through June 28 at 5 p.m.

FWP is hosting two public information meetings to discuss the proposed project during the comment period. The first meeting is June 4 at 6 p.m. at the FWP office in Kalispell, 490 N. Meridian. The second meeting is June 11 at 6 p.m. at the Swan Lake Chamber and Community Club, 22778 Montana Highway 83. The public is invited to ask questions and learn more about the proposal.

Bull trout were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. The decline of native bull trout in Swan Lake is largely attributed to the expansion of lake trout, which were either illegally introduced or potentially migrated through a now-closed fish ladder. Lake trout are highly effective predators, and their presence has led to increased competition for food and habitat resources. Additionally, lake trout prey on juvenile bull trout, further reducing their population. Predation and competition have severely impacted the bull trout population, necessitating conservation efforts by FWP.

Lake trout suppression efforts have benefited native fish conservation efforts in other lakes across the West, including Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming and Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho.

All lake trout netted during the project would be killed and those that are salvageable and of suitable size for consumption would be donated to food banks or other organizations.

Comments can be submitted via email to fisheries biologist Leo Rosenthal at lrosenthal@mt.gov or regional fisheries manager Mike Hensler at mhensler@mt.gov, or via mail to Swan Lake EA, 490 N. Meridian, Kalispell, MT 59901.

The deadline to comment is June 28 at 5 p.m.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved FWP’s proposed management action to remove lake trout from Swan Lake at its February meeting.