Montana FWP seeks input on Brown Trout Regulation

Shack

Active Member
My idiot white ass prefers browns.
Ok? Congrats on holding the same opinion as people that extirpated multiple subspecies of trout across the US lol. I prefer native species. Your opinion holds no more weight than mine does. The difference is if brown trout die out in Yellowstone you lose nothing except revenue. If cutthroat die out you lose them entirely. Not a difficult concept to understand
 

Swimmy

Well-Known Member
Didn't we introduce non-native species in part because cutthroat couldn't survive due to the de-watering and altering of our streams and rivers?

Seems like I read once that browns and rainbows were a compromise to still give us game fish.
 

_WW_

Geriatric Skagit Swinger
WFF Supporter
Didn't we introduce non-native species in part because cutthroat couldn't survive due to the de-watering and altering of our streams and rivers?

Seems like I read once that browns and rainbows were a compromise to still give us game fish.

I think it was done just to be, you know, all inclusive...Liberal, socialist conspiracy the way I see it. Woke F..ers anyway...
 
Didn't we introduce non-native species in part because cutthroat couldn't survive due to the de-watering and altering of our streams and rivers?

Seems like I read once that browns and rainbows were a compromise to still give us game fish.
No. These species, along with brookies, were introduced long before there was any understanding of the habitat specificities of the individual species. The decision to introduce any/all of these was based on contemporary views that 1) preferences for fish the managers knew from elsewhere, 2) availability of eggs/ease of rearing, 3) the view at the time that all of these game species could coexist in the same system, 4) adding more species would result in more fish in the stream, because the different species would each exploit somewhat different niches.

The folks who introduced these fish knew very little about the actual ecology of any of these fish, much less about how they would interact in streams together. Many of the early introductions were little more than experiments: "let's dump these in and see what happens." The assumption was that fish were planted to be caught and killed, so they were going to have to supplement natural reproduction, anyway, so why not with some exotic species that people knew from elsewhere. Virtually no consideration was given to any impact they might have on native fish or ecosystems. Native cutthroat have taken it in the shorts. It's easy to blame them in hindsight, but no one considered those things then, so blaming them isn't really appropriate.

From an ecological/environmental perspective, in which natural ecosystems have value in and of themselves, the only people to blame are the managers today who perpetuate the problems that have arisen from those earlier introductions.
 

Mike.Cline

Bozeman, Montana
@Richard Olmstead is correct in his description of the motivations of fisheries managers of the past. However, all the blame for the decline of cutthroat populations shouldn't be levied on the brown or rainbow trout. A good friend of mine is a fisheries biologist here in MT and been deeply involved in Westslope restoration projects over the years. One of the things they've learned over the years is that strains of WS cutts tend to be very sensitive to the nuances of the watersheds they are restored in. A strain from one watershed might not survive well when introduced into a different watershed and that mixing strains in a hatchery or through introduction can have negative impact on the overall survival rate. Part of this (speculation) can be attributed to the way the entire cutthroat species evolved with disparate populations scattered all over the West

In just one watershed, the Big Hole MTFWP records show 100s of 1000s of cutthroat trout (assume WS) were stocked in the Big Hole between 1931 and 1954 out of the Washoe Hatchery in Anaconda. No one really knows where the brood stock originated. During the same period (1940-1954) browns were stocked and (1933-1984) rainbows were stocked in the Big Hole. Although it is easy to blame the browns and rainbows for the ultimate decline in WS in the Big Hole, there is some possibility that the mere stocking of the wrong strain of WS contributed to their decline as well.

On an interesting side note, when I mentioned to the MTFWP Fishery Manager for the Big Hole that I caught a nice WS in the lower Big Hole a few weeks ago, he confirmed that more and more reports of WS being caught in the Big Hole are coming in. He explained that he had no idea where they were coming from as there were no WS restoration projects in the watershed. Nature has a strange way of adjusting.
 

Shad

Active Member
@Richard Olmstead is correct in his description of the motivations of fisheries managers of the past. However, all the blame for the decline of cutthroat populations shouldn't be levied on the brown or rainbow trout. A good friend of mine is a fisheries biologist here in MT and been deeply involved in Westslope restoration projects over the years. One of the things they've learned over the years is that strains of WS cutts tend to be very sensitive to the nuances of the watersheds they are restored in. A strain from one watershed might not survive well when introduced into a different watershed and that mixing strains in a hatchery or through introduction can have negative impact on the overall survival rate. Part of this (speculation) can be attributed to the way the entire cutthroat species evolved with disparate populations scattered all over the West

In just one watershed, the Big Hole MTFWP records show 100s of 1000s of cutthroat trout (assume WS) were stocked in the Big Hole between 1931 and 1954 out of the Washoe Hatchery in Anaconda. No one really knows where the brood stock originated. During the same period (1940-1954) browns were stocked and (1933-1984) rainbows were stocked in the Big Hole. Although it is easy to blame the browns and rainbows for the ultimate decline in WS in the Big Hole, there is some possibility that the mere stocking of the wrong strain of WS contributed to their decline as well.

On an interesting side note, when I mentioned to the MTFWP Fishery Manager for the Big Hole that I caught a nice WS in the lower Big Hole a few weeks ago, he confirmed that more and more reports of WS being caught in the Big Hole are coming in. He explained that he had no idea where they were coming from as there were no WS restoration projects in the watershed. Nature has a strange way of adjusting.
Interesting... Browns down, cutts up. Perhaps there's a correlation?
 

O' Clarkii Stomias

Active Member
I am unsure post whirling disease, but it used to be pretty much all rainbows in SW Montana streams and rivers had some westslope cuttie in the gene pool. So, I don't think the rainbows get a pass in not harming cutthroat populations.
 

Salmo_g

WFF Supporter
However, all the blame for the decline of cutthroat populations shouldn't be levied on the brown or rainbow trout.
I agree with that. Not all of the blame. But stocking of brown and rainbow trout in native cutthroat habitat can't possibly have done any favors for the cutthroat. There is far too much overlap in forage and space niches for there not to be direct competition.

If many thousands of WS cutts were stocked in the Big Hole, and the WS cutts declined, it seems most probable that the cutts that were planted in the Big Hole were a stock that was poorly adapted, or not adapted at all, to the water chemistry or hydrograph of the the Big Hole. That, in addition to competition with the stocked browns and rainbows.
 

speedbird49

Active Member
Please don't have me lynched but is conservation of non native species really a priority? How do the Browns interact with native Trout populations? As a fisherman I would love to have the opportunity to target Browns in Montana streams one day, but as a conservationist, I am not sure conserving Browns is a priority
 

Mike.Cline

Bozeman, Montana
@speedbird49, your suggestion is not unreasonable or heretical. However, it might change if informed by the economics of the SW Montana fisheries. Those economics are complex. 1) Brown and Rainbow trout fisheries are indeed robust and draw anglers from around the world to visit Montana and have the opportunity to catch 20”+ trout in a wide variety of rivers. The mere economic value of angling in Montana is in the 100s of millions of dollars. 2) Because of resilient nature of both brown and rainbow trout populations, there’s no evidence that any short term reductions in these populations has any positive impact on overall WCT or YCT populations. In other words, if you eliminate 20”+ browns and rainbows, you don’t get 20’+ cutthroats. In fact, reading about early fishing in the Yellowstone River, the average size of trout caught was 12-14”, pretty much the top end of the average YCT caught today. 3) Trying to extirpate browns and rainbows from the SW Montana watersheds would not only be prohibitive from a $$ standpoint, it might be ecologically impossible due to the interconnected nature of our upper Missouri watershed and the migratory nature of both brown and rainbow trout. And, the result if successful wouldn’t result in a similar replacement fishery by WCT or YCT but would result in the utter decimation of a robust angling and tourist economy.

It doesn’t get the publicity that angling restrictions and population declines do, but there has always been a robust, consensus based WCT/YCT restoration and conservation effort ongoing in Montana. It is just not being done at the expense of the overall angling economy.
 

Salmo_g

WFF Supporter
How do the Browns interact with native Trout populations?
First off, I really like Mike's reply to you. However, as a resident bloviator and scientist wanna' be, I have more to add.

Brown trout compete with native cutthroat for food and space. Browns are fall spawners, cutthroat are spring spawners. So brown trout fry emerge earlier than cutthroat from the gravel and get a head start on growth. This can give browns a life-long advantage in the competition for food and habitat space. Larger fish take the highest quality holding spots, and smaller fish get whatever is left, regardless of its quality. Brown trout often become picivorous at a smaller size than either rainbows or cutthroat, so large brown trout have a longer opportunity to prey on juvenile rainbows and cutthroat than do the native cutts on juvenile browns.

When trying to figure out what to do in fisheries management (other than the non-decisional status quo - gov't always prefers the status quo to any alternative action because it's the bureaucratically safest alternative), the foresightful manager asks constituents, "What is the desired future condition?" Absent a definition of the desired future condition, you never know what you're trying to achieve. And a diverse constituency generally has diverse and often divergent ideas about what the future ought to look like.

I'm speculating, but I think you'll get conservation of native fish species as a general consensu, if not a clear majority. Some folks might want to restore fisheries to their historical assemblage. Ah, but historical at which point in time? Some folks want to prioritize management and maximum abundance of economically important species. Add to this diversity the universe of what is likely possible and that which is impossible, or nearly so. But gradually, a picture should emerge that combines what people generally want with what is ecologically possible. And on it goes.
 

Natives4Ever

New Member
Name one subspecies of cutthroat that was extirpated as a result of brown trout introduction.
Do you mean extinction or extirpation? The Alvord and yellowfin cutthroat were driven to extinction by stocking rainbow and Lahonton cutthroat trout. These are the 2 known extinctions of cutthroat trout subspecies. Brown trout have not been attributable for extinctions of cutthroat, but they certainly contribute to displacement and extirpation. Researchers Phaedra Budy with USU and Robert Al-Chockhachy with USGS are among the scientists researching brown trout/cutthroat trout interactions. I can point to numerous streams where brown trout are displacing or have displaced cutthroat trout. They aren't compatible.
 

Support WFF | Remove the Ads

Support WFF by upgrading your account. Site supporters benefits include no ads and access to some additional features, few now, more in the works. Info

Latest posts

Top