Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a programmatic environmental assessment to remove smallmouth bass from Gallatin Valley ponds. Comments on the proposed environmental assessment will be used to make a final decision on whether to proceed with the project as planned.
After illegally introduced smallmouth bass were discovered in a public pond near Belgrade and two private ponds in the Gallatin Valley were found suspect of having smallmouth bass populations, FWP sampled most public ponds in the Gallatin Valley to determine the presence or absence of smallmouth bass. The pond near Belgrade was the only public water shown to be positive for smallmouth. Private ponds were not tested.
In the 1970s, FWP stocked largemouth bass in a series of ponds near Three Forks. Since then, Illegal introductions have resulted in largemouth bass in nearly all public ponds in the Gallatin Valley, including a report of largemouth bass being caught in Hyalite Reservoir. FWP has also documented hundreds of illegal introductions of warm water fish species in the Flathead Valley. FWP anticipates a similar spread pattern with smallmouth bass. Largemouth bass are more of a lake/pond species, whereas smallmouth bass do much better in riverine systems. FWP is concerned that further illegal introductions from this source will result in smallmouth bass populations in Upper Missouri River rivers and streams. Smallmouth bass would thrive in some area rivers and likely cause irreparable harm to wild trout populations, which are economically important to the state.
FWP proposes the use rotenone to eliminate known sources of smallmouth bass in ponds within the Gallatin Valley. Once smallmouth bass are successfully removed from a community pond, FWP will restock the pond with rainbow trout. FWP will work with any private pond owner to restore a fishery to appropriate game fish species after the treatment has been completed. To review the EA, go to http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/environmentalAssessments/speciesRemovalAndRelocation/pn_0079.html.
The deadline for public comment is April 17. A public meeting will be held in early April. Comment can be mailed to FWP, c/o Smallmouth Bass Removal, 1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718, or emailed to FWPRG3EA@mt.gov. If you have any questions regarding the proposed project, please call the regional office at 406-994-4042.