Yellowstone National Park "Turning The Corner" On Native Cutthroat Trout Recovery

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The National Park Service, Trout Unlimited, local fishing guides and the recreation industry on Tuesday announced “significant progress” in efforts to restore the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake—one of the largest and most ambitious native trout restoration efforts ever undertaken.

Yellowstone’s historical population of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, which once dominated Yellowstone Lake, has been decimated in recent decades by non-native lake trout, a deep-water species that aggressively preys on cutthroat trout. The impact on Yellowstone National Park’s ecosystem has been significant—grizzly bears that once depended on cutthroat trout for early season food are now resorting to other sources of protein, like elk and moose calves. Ospreys, which were once prevalent at Yellowstone Lake, have moved on to more productive waters. Additionally, anglers who once lined the banks of the Yellowstone River on opening day are all but gone, thanks to the declining fishery.

For more than eight years, the National Park Service has conducted gill-netting operations and other efforts to reduce lake trout populations and give native Yellowstone cutthroat trout a chance to recover.

Those efforts now are paying off: Recent data indicate that culling efforts are working to suppress invasive lake trout and restore the native cutthroat trout fishery.

“The data suggests that we have turned a corner in saving this iconic and globally significant population of native trout,” said Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited. “While we have a lot of work left to do, these are very encouraging results.”

According to NPS staff, an analysis of data shows progress on several fronts:

  • Annual monitoring suggests an increase in abundance of juvenile cutthroat trout within Yellowstone Lake over the last two years.
  • Lake trout suppression efforts, especially in the larger-mesh nets, were significantly increased for a second year in a row (up 70 percent in 2012 over 2011; up 35 percent in 2013 over 2012 for all meshes). 
  • Despite this increased effort in 2013, the number of lake trout caught remained just over 300,000 in both 2012 and 2013, indicating a decrease in overall lake trout numbers.
  • New analyses from Montana State University indicate that suppression efforts have put the lake trout population into a state of “negative growth”—meaning that netting efforts are causing the population to decline.

After reviewing the data, the Yellowstone Science Review Panel last week concluded that the native cutthroat recovery campaign is making “significant progress,” and that Yellowstone National Park should continue culling efforts at present levels.

At the same time, NPS biologists are finding more sophisticated methods of controlling the lake trout population, such as using electricity to destroy lake trout eggs and larvae at spawning grounds—efforts that the independent science panel said show great promise.  

“While we likely will never completely rid Yellowstone Lake of this invasive species, recent analyses suggest that, with a sustained effort, we can successfully manage the lake trout population and provide an environment where Yellowstone cutthroat trout can once again thrive in Yellowstone Lake, be a key component of a healthy ecosystem, and a source of recreation for anglers and visitors,” said Dave Hallac, chief of resources at the park.

He added, “That will be a huge and historic win for conservation.”

Many of the Yellowstone’s most experienced anglers and dedicated conservationists—including longtime guides Craig Mathews, Mike Lawson and Boots Allen—strongly support the Yellowstone cutthroat trout restoration efforts. The campaign is also supported by Trout Unlimited and its 158,000 angling members, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the National Park Conservation Association, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and other conservation groups.

“We’ve found that local and visiting anglers want to restore the native trout,” said Dave Sweet, coordinator of TU volunteers for the cutthroat restoration campaign. “Visitors come to our national parks wanting to experience an intact native ecosystem, existing as it has for eons. It’s part of our natural heritage.”

“The Yellowstone native cutthroats are as integral to Yellowstone’s larger ecosystem as bison and grizzlies,” said Mr. Williams. “And they’re one of the most significant populations of native trout in the world. If we can’t save them here, in our flagship national park, where can we save them?”


Outdoor Chattanooga News And Events

Here are upcoming news and events from Outdoor Chattanooga: Outdoor Chattanooga Featured Event Winter Workshop:  Jan. 29  - Fire by Friction Learn about tools and techniques for starting a fire with a bowdrill, or flint and steel at our next free  Winter Workshop , happening this  Thurs., Jan. 29, 6:30 p.m.  at Outdoor ... (click for more)

Cedars Of Lebanon State Park Receives Excellence In Innovation Award

Cedars of Lebanon State Park received the West Tennessee Excellence in Innovation Award at the 2015 Tennessee State Parks Management meeting last Wednesday.   Parks nominated for this award have demonstrated the ability to think outside the box to create new ideas for enhancement or improvement at their park. The innovative project must be long lasting or far reaching. ... (click for more)

Girl, 12, Stabs Boy, 13, Twice At Lookout Valley Middle High School

A female student stabbed a male student twice at Lookout Valley Middle High School on Thursday morning. It happened in a middle school classroom. Sheriff Jim Hammond the students are seventh graders.The girl is 12 and the boy 13. He  said the boy was taken by ambulance and went into surgery after the mid-morning stabbing.  He said the boy received a superficial ... (click for more)

Chief Fletcher Gives Maximum Punishment To Officer Who Fired At Vehicle That Backed Toward Him; Attorney Vows To Fight To Reverse Decision

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher has given a maximum punishment to an officer who fired four shots toward a vehicle after he said the driver backed into his vehicle with him standing behind it. Chief Fletcher sustained a finding of “improper use of force – discharge of firearm.” He suspended Officer Alex Olson for 30 days without pay – the maximum suspension allowed ... (click for more)

Shelley Andrews Will Be Missed - And Response

Shelley Andrews was one of the kindest, most thoughtful and most effective laborers in our community.  Her work with the Friends of Moccasin Bend was exemplary.  She listened, she learned and she led with dignity and class. Her brave battle with ovarian cancer was a testament to her positive spirit and commitment to her work on behalf of the people of this region. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Magic Bank Account

As the month of January is almost out the door, I am opening my email today to share a marvelous story that legend has it was printed on piece of paper found in Bear Bryant’s wallet when he died in 1983. While I don’t know that the famed Alabama football coach had this lesson in his wallet, chances are he might have if he’d read it. * * * THE BANK ACCOUNT & RULES Imagine ... (click for more)