Million Dollar Netting Effort Could be cause of Yellowstone Lake Trout Crash
“In 2018 so far, we’ve caught basically 155,000 lake trout,” Yellowstone fisheries chief Todd Koel said, “and that’s 63,000 less than this time last year.”
“That’s huge,” he said. “It’s a real signal that this population is finally crashing. It’s what our science has predicted and the population modeling has predicted, and now we’ve finally started seeing it on the ground, which is great.”
The lake trout killing is the centerpiece of a long-term fight to help Yellowstone’s native cutthroat trout recover from a predation-driven crash of their own.
The mackinaw catch declined 37 percent year over year, Koel said, even though there was a concurrent increase in the level of netting pressure.
Almost all the difference comes from smaller fish, which aren’t turning up in small-mesh gill nets in as high of numbers. A year ago, nearly 350,000 of the 400,000 caught and killed were classified as small fish, those perhaps a foot or so long, Koel said.
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(Feature photo caption: Tyler Klippel, a private netting contractor from Fredonia, Wisconsin, untangles lake trout from a gill net aboard a National Park Service fishing boat on Yellowstone Lake last September. Numbers of netted lake trout are down nearly 40 percent, suggesting a potential population crash of the invasive species.