Lake Trout Numbers Down in Yellowstone Lake

Efforts to remove Yellowstone lake trout appear to be working, as Yellowstone National Park netting initiatives at Yellowstone Lake are capturing fewer lake trout in 2018.

The numbers of Yellowstone lake trout removed from Yellowstone Lake had been steadily rising, but they’ve fallen off sharply so far in 2018, a sign taken by Yellowstone National Park officials that the lake trout population is down as well. Another sign of the decline: the removed lake trout are larger than those caught in previous years. Declining numbers of smaller lake trout means a decline in reproduction levels. From the Jackson Hole News & Guide:

“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….

“There have been less and less large lake trout out there for many, many years,” he said. “Now we’re seeing declines in the smaller fish.”

The lack of 2- and 3-year-old mackinaw showing up in gill nets suggests that the slaying of larger lake trout slowed down reproduction several years ago. This “recruitment,” in biologist speak, is declining.

It costs $2 million annually for the netting efforts, and annual improvements in lake trout removal are often touted. And while lake trout will probably never be totally removed from Yellowstone Lake — indeed, a Montana State University study estimated it would take 14 years of concerted efforts to remove all the lake trout — any huge decreases should be noted. But keep in mind this is one milestone on a long slog.

RELATED STORIES: MSU Offers Laser Technology for Yellowstone Lake Trout Management; Yellowstone Fishery Crews Prepare For Busy Season of Lake Trout Removal; Inroads Made in Lake Trout Removal from Yellowstone Lake; Lake Trout Removal Working in Yellowstone National Park

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