Walleye were illegally introduced into Noxon Reservoir in the late 1980s. Since their introduction, fisheries managers have been concerned about the negative impacts of walleye to the Noxon Reservoir and downstream fisheries. Annual gill-net monitoring beginning in 2000 indicated that the population was successfully reproducing and numbers were increasing. In anticipation of a suppression program, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) initiated a life history study beginning in 2004. Completed in 2010, this study suggests that most, if not all, spawning occurs in a small area at the head of the reservoir. In February 2013, FWP released the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) to Investigate the Suppression of Walleye in Noxon Reservoir to solicit public comment. Numerous comments were received in support and opposition to the project, and some substantive issues and information deficiencies were raised. FWP subsequently released a decision notice on the project with the determination that a revised draft EA will be developed and again released for public comment.
Based on threats posed to the fisheries of the lower Clark Fork River and state policy, FWP is continuing to pursue walleye suppression on an experimental basis to test effectiveness. Several issues, listed below, were identified by FWP and the public during the previous comment period.
Issues that will be addressed in the upcoming revised draft EA include:
- Impacts to sport and native fish including bycatch of nontarget fish species.
- Public controversy generated by the project.
- Impacts to the local economy under the No Action alternative.
- Funding availability to complete the project.
- Origin of the introduced walleye.
- FWP responses to illegal fish introductions.
- Potential waste of game fish.
- Long-term nature of potential suppression.
In addition to these issues, FWP is seeking public assistance in identifying additional issues pertinent to this project. FWP invites the public to comment on this project; specifically, issues not listed above and information sources that may aid in analysis would be especially useful. Comments and questions must be received by November 30, 2013, and can be submitted to Kenneth Breidinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or the following address:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
PO Box 95
Thompson Falls, MT 59873
(Report by Montana FWP; Cover photo: oodmag.com)