History of Native Fish Issues In the Flathead Basin
||Introduction of non-native fish and
other species begins to dramatically alter the
westslope cutthroat trout and mountain and pygmy
whitefish were the only native salmonids. Bull
trout and northern pikeminnow were the dominant
predaceous fishes in the system.
||The Flathead Indian Reservation is
created by the Hellgate treaty.
northern boundary of the 1.3 million acre
reservation nearly bisects Flathead Lake
splitting responsiblility for the lake between
the State of Montana and the Confederated Salish
and Kootenai Tribes.
||Bigfork Dam is built at the outlet
of the Swan River for power generation.
The dam blocked migration of native fish
upstream into Swan Lake and the Swan River and
isolated populations of bull trout and cutthroat
above the dam.
||Kerr Dam at the outlet of Flathead
Lake near Polson, Montana begins operation.
The 541-foot, 205-foot high dam raised the level
of Flathead Lake by ten feet. The stored water
in the extra ten feet is used for electrical
||Hungry Horse Dam is completed on the
South Fork of the Flathead River,
impounding the 30-mile long Hungry Horse
Reservoir. The dam blocked upstream passage of
westslope cutthroat and bull trout and denied
access to 40% of available spawning habitat. The
dam also created isolated populations of
cutthroat and bull trout above the reservoir. No
non-native fish species are currently found
above the dam.
||The Montana Department of Fish,
Wildlife and Parks begins introducing opossum
shrimp (Mysis relicta) into
Ashley, Swan and Whitefish Lakes upstream from
||Bull trout populations in Flathead
Lake estimated at 40,000 fish.
||Mysis drifted down from the upstream
lakes and began to enter the food web of
Flathead Lake. Mysis numbers increased
rapidly to a peak of 130 shrimp per square meter
and 1985, 118,000 to 26,000 kokanee spawners
were estimated each year in McDonald Creek
near Glacier National Park.
By 1987, only 330
kokanee migrated to McDonald Creek and only 50
spawned in 1989.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Confederated
Salish and Kootenai Tribes write a 5-year
management plan for the Flathead Lake and River
system following extensive public scoping.
The plan was not rewritten
in 1994 due to continuing rapid changes in the
aquatic food web of Flathead Lake.
||June 10, 1998: Bull trout were listed as a
Threatened Species under the federal Endangered
History of Listing
expert panel of fishery scientists met in
Polson, MT, November 17-19, 1997
to assess the most likely
reasons for the decline of bull trout in
Flathead Lake and to examine options for
restoring the species in the drainage. Their
report was released Feb. 3, 1998.
Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes began a
process to develop a new cooperative fisheries
management plan for the Flathead basin.
Mid-term review of the Flathead Lake and River
Fisheries Co-management Plan.
Nov. 1, 2006 Required 5-year review of the
10-year co-management plan.
A peer-reviewed study was undertaken in 2006 on the
effects of northern pike (Esox lucius)
predation on native salmonids in the lower
Flathead River. The study was
published in the North American Journal of
Fisheries in 2008
Glacier National Park proposes a project to
remove invasive lake trout from Quartz Lake.
Fearing continued loss of
native bull trout populations from west-side
lakes in the Park, the National Park Service
proposed a four-year netting project and
rebuilding of the Quartz Creek fish barrier.
Quartz Lake EA
Flathead Lake and River Fisheries Co-management
Plan - Annual Report.
"There was a fall back in harvest in 2008 that
may indicate that the peak potential of the
contests has been reached." "The shortfall in
reaching our target lake trout removal was about
20% or about 10,000 fish. If we have reached the
peak potential harvest of 20,000 lake trout in
the Mack Days events then we feel that our
ability to produce significantly more lake trout
harvest with the Mack Days type contests is
trout population in Flathead Lake is estimated
at 400,000 fish. Bull trout populations in
Flathead Lake and the North and Middle Forks of
the Flathead River is estimated at 3,000 to
Wildlife and Parks and Glacier National Park
bull trout redd counts
show further population declines.
MTFWP redd counts were
"average" for the North and Middle Fork
tributaries and "below average" in the Swan and
the South Fork. GNP biologists find that data
"suggest precariously low numbers of bull trout
spawning in many of the lakes" on the west side
of Glacier Park. N. Fk. & Middle Fk. Flathead
redd counts, "below average".
MTFWP Redd Counts
Glacier Redd Counts
3: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks proposes
conducting a 3-year lake trout removal effort in
Swan Lake to determine the feasibility of
suppressing the population.
Netting is begun in the
fall of 2009 with the removal of more than 5,000
lake trout. Lake Trout suppression Effort begins
on Quartz Lake in Glacier National Park.
EA and Decision Notice
December: The Confederated Salish and Kootenai
Tribes release a draft proposal for a 3-year
pilot gill-netting project to further work
toward meeting the goals of the co-management
plan. The plan consists of
a well-defined and time-limited program to
achieve incremental increases in lake trout
harvest that are sufficient to reduce lake trout
13: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service releases
a proposed revision of Critical Habitat for Bull
Trout. The proposal
includes 3,094 stream miles and 223,762 acres of
lakes and reservoirs in Montana. Public comments
accepted until March 15, 2010.
30: USFWS releases final bull trout Critical
Habitat Rule. The ruling
includes 3,056 miles of streams and 221,471
lakes and reservoirs in Montana. 18,795 miles of
streams and 488,252 lakes and reservoirs in
Montana, Idaho, Washington and Idaho are
protected under the new rule
USFWS Bull Trout website
Information on the Designation
year CSKT, MTFWP co-management plan ends.
The Tribes continue to
sponsor and support the Mack Days fishing
contests, but clearly more will need to be done
to meet the goals of the management plan. CSKT
makes a proposal for a limited gill-netting
project which is rejected by FWP. Both managers
along with local agencies and a team of
respected scientists begin a NEPA process to
come up with ways to remove additional lake
trout and rebalance the fishery.
information on the current NEPA/EIS process.
Flathead Lake Issues
Flathead Lake and