MSU has developed a new laser technology that will help to locate the invasive Lake Trout in Yellowstone Lake. The technology will be deployed using a small airplane that can quickly locate and identify where the Lake Trout are staging for spawning.
Once the schools of Lake Trout are found, gill nets will be deployed to rid the lake of these voracious predators. In the past, other strategies such as remote submersible cameras, electronically tagged “Judas Fish”, and other technologies have been used. Spawning time seems to be when the gill nets can best catch concentrated schools of Lakers. All other fish and Cut throats are released.
Lake trout turned up in the early 1990’s and have increased in size and population. The National Park Service has spent millions of dollars to eradicate this nuisance fish. Using airborne technology will give more real time data on locations of Lake Trout. The new technology can see schools of fish or individuals quickly and efficiently.
Lake trout eat the native Cut throat trout causing their population to drop to dangerously low levels. Grizzly bears, eagles, ospreys, and many other native critters, in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, depend on these native fish to survive. Lake trout are deep water fish that do not enter tributaries to spawn and become a regular, available food source.
Yellowstone Lake and River once supported an amazing fishery of Cutties! Places such as Buffalo Ford, and Fishing Bridge were places where thousands of trout could be caught and observed. Now they have become a rare sight.
The gill net program has had some success. Fishermen are required to keep or kill any Lake trout they catch. There is hope that a balance can be reached but the Lake Trout are probably here to stay.
The next invasive challenge to Yellowstone Park are Zebra Mussels, which are easily spread by fishermen’s boots, boats, and wildlife. These resilient mussels have no predators and can destroy an ecosystem.
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For more Montana Grant, visit his website at www.montanagrantfishing.com.