Montana Adopts Mandatory Kill on Walleye

I know there are a lot of guys out there who like fishing for walleye and there are probably a lot more who just like eating them. My experience with walleye is that they don’t like to eat flies, they fight like an old boot, and they’re overrated. Ok, maybe that is a little harsh. I caught some below Boysen Reservoir on Wyoming’s Wind River one time that fought ok. But when I specifically went after them in Ontario they were a tough bet. Landed a few small ones, and my friend lost a pig. And that was that. Thank god for Ontario’s smallmouth bass. They saved the day.

Fish managers in Montana are pretty nervous about the spread of non-native walleye and here’s a new report to prove it. Nothing like more spiny rays in the neighborhood.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday unanimously approved a regulation that will require anglers to kill and keep any walleye that are caught on Swan Lake, the Swan River and its tributaries in the northwest region of the state.

 John Fraley, public affairs specialist for Region One, said the regulation is unprecedented for the state.

 Northwest Montana’s Swan River flows north into Swan Lake, and further north into Bigfork Bay on Flathead Lake. The Swan River is a major tributary in the Flathead Lake ecosystem.

 Regulations offering anglers bounties for undesirable, invasive fish have a voluntary element, but the new rule for walleye in the Swan Lake drainage is mandatory: anglers must kill and keep any walleye that are caught, report the catch to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks within 24 hours, and turn the fish over to the department.

 The department will make arrangements to pick up the fish within 10 days, if needed.

 “Well, this is about the most aggressive regulation we can propose,” Fraley said prior to Thursday’s commission meeting.

 Department officials say the rule is largely aimed at discouraging those who would like to see a successful walleye fishery established in a drainage that is home to threatened bull trout and native west slope cutthroat trout populations. Previous illegal introductions of invasive fish, such as northern pike, have created angler constituencies that have advocated over time that the species be accepted with regulatory protections.

 That won’t be the case for walleye in Swan Lake, which already has illegally introduced lake trout and northern pike that compete with and displace bull trout and cutthroats. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has been attempting to suppress lake trout populations in Swan Lake by gill netting for the last eight years.

 It was during gill netting operations this fall that two 17-inch walleye were caught, the first to be detected in Swan Lake. Fisheries officials are certain they were introduced, and a $25,000 reward has been offered for any information leading to the person or persons responsible for putting walleye in Swan Lake. Read More at Columbia Basin Bulletin

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