Two walleye were caught in Swan Lake last week during FWP gill net sampling operations, according to FWP Region One Fisheries Manager Mark Deleray.
Deleray noted that these were the first walleye reported from Swan Lake, and it is assumed that these fish originated from an illegal fish introduction. Illegal fish introductions have caused problems in hundreds of waters across the state, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to rectify. In most cases, the illegal introduction cannot be undone often leading to lost fishing opportunity. In this case, walleye are highly predacious and could impact the native bull trout as well as the kokanee salmon fishery in Swan Lake.
The two walleye both measured 17 inches long. It is not known how long the fish had been in the lake.
State law MCA 87-5-711 makes it illegal to introduce or transplant fish in Montana unless authorized by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. The release of any live fish into any Montana pond, lake, stream, or river without FWP authorization is strictly forbidden. Penalties can range from fines of $2,000 to $10,000, loss of fishing, hunting, and trapping privileges, plus liability for the costs to eliminate or mitigate the effects of the violation. Anglers cannot move any live fish from the water in which the fish are caught.
Last year the Fish and Wildlife Commission took action to strengthen FWP’s response to illegal introductions. FWP will now launch an investigation to confirm the presence and distribution of the introduced species within 30 days, and formulate a plan for responding to, and potentially suppressing or removing, the illegally introduced fish. The actions are part of the response outlined in the new Commission policy.
Deleray asks anyone with information on who introduced walleye into Swan Lake to call 1-800-TIP MONT. Callers do not need to identify themselves and may be eligible for a cash reward of over $15,000. Anglers are encouraged to keep any walleye caught and report additional sightings of walleye to FWP at 752-5501.