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Yellowstone updates fishing regulations

Anglers asked to keep non-native fish caught in most waters

Yellowstone National Park has updated its fishing regulations. Changes in this year’s regulations include removing limits on non-native fish in some locations to eliminate unwanted species and protect cutthroat trout and other native species. And they are making headway against the foreign fish.

The changes were made to better align the regulations with the park’s Native Fish Conservation Plan, according to a National Park Service news release.

Anglers are asked to release all native Yellowstone cutthroats they catch, said Todd Koel, supervisor for the Yellowstone fisheries program.

To help protect native fish species, the limit on non-native fish caught in the park’s Native Trout Conservation Area has been eliminated. This includes all park waters except the Madison and Firehole rivers, the Gibbon River below Gibbon Falls and Lewis and Shoshone lakes, the release stated.

In the Lamar River drainage, rainbow and brook trout are the threat, Koel said.

“To assist with the preservation of native cutthroat trout, anglers are encouraged to harvest non-natives,” Koel said. “In particular, the removal of rainbow trout from downstream reaches of the Lamar River will greatly help to conserve remaining genetically pure cutthroat trout in upstream reaches, including Slough and Soda Butte creeks.”

Rainbow or brook trout caught in the Lamar drainage must be harvested to protect cutthroats in the headwater reaches of the drainage including Slough (pronounced slew) and Soda Butte creeks, said the release.

Anglers also are reminded that all lake trout caught in Yellowstone Lake must be killed to help cutthroat trout restoration efforts, said the release.

All native fish found in Yellowstone waters, including cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish and Arctic grayling, must be released unharmed. Anglers are reminded that they may use only barb-less artificial flies and lures and lead-free sinkers when fishing in the park, according to the release.

Progress is being made purging park waters of unwanted guests.

In 2012, 300,000 lake trout were removed from Yellowstone Lake. More than 20,000 lake trout have been taken from the lake this spring during the first week of netting, Koel said Thursday.

Both commercial and Park Service boats use nets to catch and kill lake trout in the lake.

The service is restoring native Westslope cutthroat trout and Arctic grayling in the Gallatin and Madison river drainages and reinstating Yellowstone cutthroats in Yellowstone River drainages, Koel said.

For the last two-plus years, 220 lake trout have been swimming around Yellowstone Lake with radio tags surgically implanted in their bellies. Fifty-two receivers on buoys are tracking lake trout travel to detect spawning beds as part of the telemetry study.

On May 30, Park Service officials and members of the U.S. Geological Survey met at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone to discuss how to best take advantage of the data the telemetry study is revealing.

A three-day Yellowstone National Park fishing permit is $18, a seven-day permit is $25 and an annual permit costs $40. Permits for anglers 15 years of age and younger are free. Permit fees are used to enhance the park’s fisheries management program and to implement the park’s Native Fish Conservation Plan, said the release.

Fisheries management activities are primarily focused on the recovery of the Yellowstone Lake ecosystem through the restoration of the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Other activities include the restoration of cutthroat trout and Arctic grayling in streams and lakes, exotic aquatic species prevention, fish population monitoring, water quality monitoring, enforcing fishing regulations, interpreting fisheries for park visitors, angler surveys and operational costs, said the release.

For more information on season dates and fishing regulations, visit http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fishing.htm.Plans hatched to kill Yellowstone lake trout

BY GIB MATHERS

Tribune Staff Writer

Plans are being hatched to zero in on lake trout pathways in Yellowstone Lake this summer to net the fish and and electrocute their eggs in spawning beds this fall.

In 2011, the Park Service began surgically installing radio transmitters in the bellies of lake trout to track their travel. To date, 220 lake trout pack the transmitters, and 52 receivers bobbing on the lake’s surface relay data to map lake trout movement.

Now the data will be brought to bear on the lake trout and the eggs they lay.

On May 30, U.S. Park Service officials and U.S. Geological Survey personnel met in Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park to plan this summer’s lake trout assault.

“A really positive meeting looking at ways to use telemetry to guide netting,” said Dave Sweet of the east Yellowstone chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Sweet has been an integral part of Unlimited’s campaign to save the Yellowstone Lake cutthroat from volunteering on net boats to raising funding for lake trout removal studies. The unwanted lake trout have been known to inhabit the lake since 1994.

Starting in 1995, nets have been deployed to catch and kill lake trout.

A 2008 impartial scientific review recommended netting as many lake trout as possible. They also advised tracking lake trout to spawning beds and attacking those beds.

At the Thursday meeting, Dr. Bob Gresswell of the USGS announced that he will conduct monthly meetings with Park Service and Hickey Brothers’ boat crews to provide coordinates to the best possible locations to net the lake trout, Sweet said.

Hickey Brothers, commercial fishing contractors, have been catching lake trout in Yellowstone every summer since 2011. 

Using data from the study, lake trout traffic patterns on a particular day last year can be determined. Then Gresswell can advise the fishermen/women where and at what depth the lake trout will be on the same day this year, Sweet said. 

The nets can be used to snag the lake trout based on the assumption they will be at the same location exactly one year later on any given day.

Carrington Island, a minuscule islet, saw 50 percent of the tagged lake trout in 2011, suggesting it is a major spawning bed. From mid-September to the end of September this year, netting efforts will focus on the waters around Carrington, Sweet said.

In the meantime, an electric shocker is being developed by a Montana State University engineer to electrocute lake trout eggs deposited in spawning beds, Sweet said.

The Park Service favors electrocuting the lake trout eggs, said Todd Koel, supervisor for the Yellowstone fisheries program.

There are two confirmed spawning beds in the lake.

Phil Sandstrom, the statistician studying the receiver data, discovered six “congregation” areas based on last summer’s data. Those could be spawning beds too, Sweet said.

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