Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists are trying to figure out why three lakes along the Beartooth Highway seem to be holding very few of the rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout that are planted each year.
On Beartooth, Long and Island lakes, the department plants thousands of fish every year – 5,400 on Beartooth Lake alone. But at the end of the summer when biologists set gill nets to sample the lakes’ trout populations, few of the planted fish showed up. On Beartooth Lake, only 17 percent of the catch were planted fish.
So the mystery is: where are all the fish going? There are a couple of theories. No. 1 is that because the lakes are along the popular Beartooth Highway, folks are simply stopping, fishing and catching many of the planted fish. Another possibility is that the fish aren’t surviving the winter in the high mountain lakes – up around 9,000 feet above sea level. A third idea, but a remote possibility, is that the planted fish are being eaten by other fish in the lake.
The department has already conducted some angler surveys to try and gauge the public harvest of the fish. More surveys will be conducted next year. Once the agency circles in on the cause of the fish decline, they will recommend changes to try and address the situation. The possibilities could include planting more fish or planting larger fish.
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