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World Class Fishery Threatened

This letter is in response to a letter published in the Bigfork Eagle on saving Flathead Lake’s native fish by Paul Pochak, president of Flathead Valley Trout Unlimited.  Mr. Pochak’s letter stated that during open process the public strongly supported and commented in favor of aggressive action, such as netting of non-native lake trout to reduce the population of lake trout in Flathead Lake.  He further added that the local Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency is ignoring their obligation Endangered Species Act and to the public by not killing more lake trout in hopes that the number of bull trout would increase. These statements are not consistent with what we know.

We have attended many of these public forums and the vast majority of the public testimony has strongly opposed gill netting and other efforts to kill Lake trout in Flathead Lake.  Local fishermen, charter fishing businesses, sports store owners and many others lined up to tell Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes in a recent public forum that they strongly oppose gill netting.  It was obviously that our tourism economy is very dependent on Flathead Lake. 

We also know that gill netting has a significant detrimental impact on the quality of fish because of the degradation in quality caused by gill netting and improper storage.  We are told that fish caught are not wasted, but are used to feed the needy.  Are the fish eaten by people who are unaware of their poor quality or are the fish being discarded?

Charter fishing businesses are also being adversely impacted by the Mack Fishing Derby.  One charter fishing business indicated in testimony that his daily catches in the derby area decreased after the derby by 50%, from 10 fish to 5.  What a waste of money.  Every person who pays an electric bill is paying for this effort to kill lake trout which directly decreases their potential to catch fish.

We strongly oppose killing lake trout because they are not native.  The local Fish, Wildlife and Parks office is meeting the requirements under the Endangered Species Act. As they stated, the bull trout populations are stable in the Flathead.  Bringing populations back to historical levels is a misuse of the Act, similar to what has been done with the wolves.  The result will be that the lake trout fishery will be gone and it will be illegal to keep bull trout we catch. We presently have a world class trout fishery at

Flathead Lake.  We are very fortunate to have a lake where we can take our kids and grandkids and catch fish almost every time.

Contact Fish, Wildlife and Parks at jvashro@mt.gov and thank them for their efforts in stopping the introduction of Zebra and Quagga mussels into Flathead Lake and state that you agree with them that the bull trout populations in the Flathead Lake are stable and that we have a world class trout fishery in Flathead Lake which should be left alone.


Senator Verdell Jackson, SD 5, 555 Wagner Lane, Kalispell, MT 406-756-8344 

Senator Jon Sonju, SD 4, P. O. Box 2954, Kalispell, MT 406-270-7113

Senator Ryan Zinke, SD 2, 409 W 2nd St., Whitefish, MT 406-862-0823

Senator John C. Brenden, SD 18, P. O. Box 970, Scobey, MT 406-783-5393

Senator Greg Hinkle, SD 7, 5 Gable Rd., Thompson Fall, MT 406-827-4645

Representative Jerry O’Neil, HD 3, 985 Walsh Road, Kalispell, MT 406-892-7602

Representative Mark Blasdel, HD 10, P. O. Box 291, Somers, MT 406-261-3269

Representative Steve Lavin, HD 8, P. O. Box 11241, Kalispell, MT 406-212-0699

Representative Derek Skees, HD 4, P. O. Box 5331, Whitefish, MT 406-212-5493

Representative Keith Regier, HD 5, 1078 Stillwater Rd., Kalispell, MT 406-756-6141