Montana’s World-Class Fishery Threatened

by Republican Legislators Listed Below

This letter is in response to a letter in the Bigfork Eagle on saving Flathead Lake’s native fish, by Paul Pochak, president of Flathead Valley Trout Unlimited

Mr. Pochak’s letter stated that during open process the public strongly supported and commented in favor of aggressive action, such as netting of non-native lake trout to reduce the population of lake trout in Flathead Lake.  He added that local Fish, Wildlife and Parks is ignoring its obligation under the Endangered Species Act and to the public by not killing more lake trout to hopefully increase the number of bull trout. These statements are not consistent with what we know.

At the many public forums we have attended, the vast majority of the public testimony has strongly opposed gill netting and other efforts to kill Lake trout in Flathead Lake.  Local fishermen, charter fishing businesses, sports store owners and many others lined up to tell Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes in a recent public forum that they strongly oppose gill netting.  It is obvious that our tourism economy is very dependent on Flathead Lake.

We also know gill netting has a significant detrimental impact on the quality of fish caused by gill netting and improper storage.  We are told fish caught are not wasted, but are used to feed the needy.  However, are these fish eaten by people who are unaware of their poor quality or are the fish being discarded?

Charter fishing businesses are also being adversely impacted by the Mack Fishing Derby.  One charter fishing business indicated in testimony that his daily catches in the derby area decreased after the derby by 50%, from 10 fish to 5.  What a waste of money.  Every person who pays an electric bill is paying for this effort to kill lake trout which directly decreases their potential to catch fish.

We strongly oppose killing lake trout because they are not native.

The local Fish, Wildlife and Parks office is meeting the requirements under the Endangered Species Act. As they stated, the bull trout populations are stable in the Flathead.  Bringing populations back to historic levels is a misuse of the Act, similar to what has been done with the wolves.  The result of killing lake trout would be the lake trout fishery would be gone and it would be illegal to keep bull trout we catch.

We presently have a world class trout fishery at Flathead Lake.  We are very fortunate to have a lake where we can take our kids and grandkids and catch fish almost every time.

Contact Fish, Wildlife and Parks at jvashro@mt.gov. Thank them for their efforts in stopping the introduction of Zebra and Quagga mussels into Flathead Lake and tell them you agree with stable bull trout populations in Flathead Lake and you wish to preserve our world-class trout fishery in Flathead Lake.

Senator Verdell Jackson, SD 5, 555 Wagner Lane, Kalispell, MT 406-756-8344
Senator Jon Sonju, SD 4, P. O. Box 2954, Kalispell, MT 406-270-7113
Senator Ryan Zinke, SD 2, 409 W 2nd St., Whitefish, MT 406-862-0823
Senator John C. Brenden, SD 18, P. O. Box 970, Scobey, MT 406-783-5393

Representative Jerry O’Neil, HD 3, 985 Walsh Road, Kalispell, MT 406-892-7602
Representative Mark Blasdel, HD 10, P. O. Box 291, Somers, MT 406-261-3269
Representative Steve Lavin, HD 8, P. O. Box 11241, Kalispell, MT 406-212-0699
Representative Greg Hinkle, SD 7, 5 Gable Rd., Thompson Fall, MT 406-827-4645
Representative Derek Skees, HD 4, P. O. Box 5331, Whitefish, MT 406-212-5493
Representative Keith Regier, HD 5, 1078 Stillwater Rd., Kalispell, MT 406-756-6141 (127)

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