Yellowstone Lakes cutthroat trout population is coming back. This unique native trout has survived the relentless attack from invasive Lake Trout. They have also changed their habits and behaviors.
It seems that Cuts are spawning a few weeks earlier. They have also found areas where lakers are less concentrated and feed on new biomass options. The newer cuts are twice as fat as the same sized ones prior to the Laker onslaught. Recent floods have also cleaned silt from many tributaries and spread the genetics of the cutthroat population out.
Lake trout were illegally dumped into Yellowstone Lake sometime in the 1980’s. Their otoliths, ear bones, show a genetic trace to lake trout from Lewis Lake. There is no natural waterway for trout to navigate between the two lakes. A bucket was required. By the mid 1990’s the cutthroat population crashed. Once the Lakers reached 4-5 years old, they began to spawn. Adults could eat 41 Cutthroats, or more a year, and did.
The federal Government has spent 20 million dollars and 30 years of effort to research and gill net over 4.3 million lake trout. The Yellowstone ecosystem did not have a natural way to manage the population of unwanted, and unnatural lakers.
Currently, gillnetting is still ongoing and catches about 54,000 adult lake trout each year. That’s a 92% decline. Over 500 miles of gill nets were needed to do the job. Sport anglers catch about 20,000 lake trout a year. It may be impossible to eradicate the Lakers but most of the fish currently being caught are under 2 years of age.
Yellowstone River, below the lake, is closed for fishing until July 1st. Fishing could be Cutting edge again.