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FWP looks to improve fishing in reservoir,

by Heidi Desch Western News
| April 5, 2011 8:44 AM

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks would

like to preserve fishing in the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa.

They’d also like to see it improve.

To that end, FWP mangers are asking for

input from the public. Every four years, FWP reviews its fishing

regulations for potential changes.

About 20 people attending a public

meeting last week on the potential changes. Comments on the changes

will be taken through April 22.

“We’re looking at issues and problems,”

said regional fisheries manager Jim Vashro. “We want to see what we

can address with fish regulation changes.”

One of the areas where potential change

could take place are for the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa.

Fisheries managers have identified a

number of areas of concern for these areas.

One area of concern is for bull trout

in Lake Koocanusa. There has been a decline in bull trout redd

count in recent years. One issue that seems to be affecting bull

trout is the amount of catch-and-release mortalities.

“We’re handling a lot of bull trout and

that’s an issue,” fisheries biologist Mike Hensler said. “As we

harvest and handle bull trout the numbers are going down.”

The fishery was opened on Koocanusa in

2004 allowing anglers to keep two bull trout per year. Since then,

there’s been a drop in the bull trout redd counts in the Wigwam

River, where bull trout from Koocanusa spawn.

One option could be to prohibit

removing bull trout from the water unless the fish is going to be

killed.

Vashro said this option could help

prevent fish from being kept out of the water for extended periods

of time before being released again.

“We see a lot of trophy shots,” he

said. “Even in places its not legal to fish (for bull trout).”

Another area of concern is the

declining number of rainbow trout and trophy rainbow trout in the

Kootenai River downstream of Libby Dam.

“We know times are tough and we’d like

to see (the river) back to what it was,” Vashro said.

FWP monitors rainbow trout in several

sections below the dam.

“There’s a considerable drop in the

rainbow trout,” Hensler. “For 13 inch or greater rainbow the

numbers are down dramatically in all sections we monitor.”

Some at the public meeting suggested

FWP stock the river like it does with lakes.

“We rely on the natural reproduction,”

Vashro said. “If there’s no potential for reproduction we’ll look

for a way to change the habitat or adjust the angling.”

Stocking streams or rivers can often be

difficult, because unlike in lakes, fish don’t stay where they are

placed, he noted.

FWP will continue taking comments

through April 22 on changes to the fishing regulations. Changes are

expected to go into affect March 1, 2012.

To read about statewide issues and

provide comments visit the FWP website at www.fwp.mt.gov and look

under the “For Anglers” heading.