Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

CSKT releases spring lake trout suppression results

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes completed an extensive environmental analysis of the impacts of expanded lake trout suppression outlined under the Flathead Lake and River Fisheries Co-Management Plan.

The activities to be conducted in 2014 are captured in an Implementation Plan that is available at mackdays.com under the management tab. This plan is the culmination of three years of analysis and documentation of the environmental impacts of expanded lake trout suppression efforts, and lays out specific suppression activities for 2014. The Tribes prepared the plan to be a living document, subject to annual reviews and course corrections, rather than as a rigid and inflexible plan.

The 2014 Implementation Plan sets a harvest target range from 90,000 to 100,000 lake trout, and separates harvest by methods that include general recreational harvest, Mackdays, and netting. This target represents about a 30 percent increase in the harvest measured over the last several years.

In addition, the Plan describes changes in the fishery of Flathead Lake over time, and an incremental and transparent decision process that includes public involvement. Each year a team of fisheries professionals will review the results, followed by public scoping and review by the Reservation Fish and Wildlife Advisory Board, and concluding with a decision by the Tribal Council.

Suppression efforts for 2014 began on March 14 with the kick-off of Spring Mack Days. The contest will ended on May 18 with an anticipated harvest of over 30,000 lake trout, which is substantially higher than last spring.

The first phase of netting for 2014 took place during the last two weeks of April. The Tribes used this period to be trained by an experienced netting team and to gain the necessary proficiency for subsequent phases to be conducted independently by the Tribes.

In eight days of netting the Tribes caught 5,232 lake trout and evaluated many of the issues raised during the preceding environmental analyses. One bull trout was inadvertently captured and immediately released, so no mortality of bull trout resulted from the netting.

Additionally, 2,487 lake whitefish were netted. Like Mack Days, the fish were donated to local food banks.

The netting was conducted within the constraints of a permit issued by the USFWS to address the incidental “take” (capture) of bull trout. Wade Fredenberg of the USFWS reviewed the Tribal netting effort and monitored it onsite for compliance with the USFWS permit.

After the review Fredenberg stated “The Tribes did what they were permitted to do under ESA, and because they followed the Best Available Science the results were exactly what we expected - high lake trout catch with virtually no bull trout bycatch. As a result, we continue to give our full support to this adaptive effort to incrementally reduce lake trout numbers.”

To achieve the 2014 harvest target, the Tribes will complete Spring Mack Days, conduct another fishing event in the autumn, and perform additional netting if it is necessary to achieve the target of 90,000 to 100,000 lake trout. Following each component of suppression, the Tribes will summarize the results and post them on the Mackdays.com website for full review.

The analysis of all results will be conducted during early 2015, followed by a public meeting in February 2015. A final decision about the harvest target for 2015 and the methods to achieve that harvest will be made public in March 2015.

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