December 11, 2017
A massive reward is being offered for information related to illegal stocking of walleye in Swan Lake, located near Kalispell, MT. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Trout Unlimited are offering a reward of up to $35,250 for information on the illegally introduced fish.
As reported by KTVQ.com, "According to FWP's Region 6 Office, two walleye were found in Swan Lake in October 2015. The two walleye were caught in a gill net. FWP says it was the first time walleye were discovered in Swan Lake."
"FWP biologists used chemical analysis from the fishes' inner ear bones to trace their origin. They compared their findings to walleye from more than a dozen other popular Montana fisheries. Through their analysis, the biologists learned the two fish came from Lake Helena and had been illegally introduced into Swan Lake sometime in the Spring of 2015."
The FWP posted photos of the walleye captured in 2015 on their Facebook page.
Swan Lake is has a long history of management by the state of Montana to favor native fish, in particular, the threatened Bull Trout. According to the state Fish and Wildlife department,
"Lake trout were first detected in the Swan River drainage in 1998 and juvenile fish were first captured in gillnets in 2003, indicating that reproduction was occurring. A graduate study initiated in 2006 revealed that lake trout up to 16 years old were present in Swan Lake, and confirmed that the population has been steadily increasing since the early 1990's. Although the exact mechanism causing the recent decline in bull trout numbers is unknown, it is likely that 20 years of increasing lake trout numbers could be a factor."
Walleye -- while considered an excellent sport and table fish when taken from their native waters -- are voracious predators, and can decimate populations of juvenile trout. They are typically successful in reproduction as well, and represent a significant competitor to trout for food sources. The introduction to Swan lake may represent a greater threat than that of Lake Trout owing to their faster maturation and associated population increases.
Illegal stocking of non-native fishes by the general citizenry represents a threat to not only environmental balances, but to taxpayer funded sporting resources. When someone engages in "Bucket Biology" to introduce their favorite fish to a foreign watershed, they are essentially stealing millions of dollars of funding for fisheries operations, manpower and enforcement. Please report all instances of suspected illegal stocking to your local fish and game management office.