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Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Lake Trout eat native Yellowstone cutthroat trout
Lake Trout eat native Yellowstone cutthroat trout

Help us Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in Yellowstone Lake! 




 

December 30, 2015

Posted by John C. Ellsworth, Idaho Trout Unlimited’s Yellowstone Cutthroat Coordinator

Yellowstone National Park Fisheries Supervisor honored for work restoring Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake

Todd Koel, fisheries supervisor in Yellowstone, was recently awarded the 2015 Regional Director’s Award for Natural Resource Management by the National Park Service (NPS).  Todd has been the lead NPS fisheries biologist on our Yellowstone Lake working group in our efforts to restore the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake.

According to an NPS press release:

“The award honors Todd for his significant contributions in reversing decreasing trends in native fish populations and associated losses of ecosystem function in Yellowstone. He also led the restoration of native Arctic grayling and cutthroat trout to several watersheds and intensified efforts to suppress nonnative lake trout and restore cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake.”

For more details, visit the Trout Unlimited national website here:

http://www.tu.org/blog-posts/tu-partner-in-yellowstone-national-park-honored-for-his-efforts

Congratulations, Todd!

November 2, 2015

Posted by John C. Ellsworth, Idaho Trout Unlimited’s Yellowstone Cutthroat Coordinator

Progress Report on suppressing lake trout and restoring native Yellowstone cutthroat trout

The TU Idaho Council met on October 17, 2015 in Hailey to receive the latest report on Saving the Yellowstone Cutthroats in Yellowstone Lake and pledged additional financial support.  

Background

The Yellowstone Lake working group is composed of Yellowstone National Park, US Geological Survey, Trout Unlimited in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and TU National, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

Progress Summary

The following is provided by Dave Sweet, WY TU Yellowstone Lake Special Projects Manager (September 9, 2015).

This summer, the netting operation is proceeding full speed and early results indicate that we continue to make a significant impact on the adult lake trout population. Final netting results won’t be available until November but preliminary numbers are encouraging. Over the past four years the lake trout population has been roughly halved. The telemetry study is also progressing. Summer placement of receivers continues to indicate travel patterns and seasonal congregations of lake trout. Fall receiver arrays are now in place that will be used to confirm or locate suspected spawning areas with confirmation by a combination of diving/robotic photography/egg collection/fry detection. The NPS is actively pursuing ova/fry suppression by electro-shocking and vacuum technology which gives us great hope for a less expensive and longer term lake trout suppression strategy. Meanwhile, the cutthroat population continues its recovery. Each of the past four years has shown an increasing total number of cutthroats in the system and a major increase in the survival of juvenile and mid-age cutts. This last trend is very significant and rewarding.

The exciting core message we want to continue to communicate to the public and our project supporters is:

The lake trout decline in Yellowstone Lake is resulting in an increase in native Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations, and we must continue the work of restoring the Yellowstone cutthroat trout to its rightful place in the Yellowstone Lake system.

The Costs of Saving the Yellowstone Cutthroats in Yellowstone Lake

The total annual cost of the efforts is $1,800,000 including the cost of the telemetry operations alone which is approximately $357,000. TU Idaho and our partners in fishing clubs and other organizations have raised a total of $15,977 over the last few years. Montana TU has committed to $10,000 per year for the next three years and Wyoming TU much more. The Yellowstone Park Foundation raises approximately $1,000,000 annually. The USGS annually provides $112,000 in personnel costs and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition contributes $20,000 annually.

Fundraising

The total project fundraising from TU, GYC [Greater Yellowstone Coalition], NPCA [National Parks Conservation Association], and IFFF [International Federation of Fly Fishers] now stands at just under $1,060,000 with just over $1M of that coming through TU … the WWNRT [Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust fund administered through the Wyoming state legislature] grant is $771,000 of that number leaving about $230,000 coming from our TU members and supporters.

We have made progress but more funds are needed this year.

 Idaho Council asked to continue support for this project …

In order to match the three-year $771,576 grant from the Wyoming legislature through their Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the partner organizations need to raise $137,000.  We have made progress but more funds are needed this year. Montana TU has committed to $10,000 per year for the next three years and Wyoming TU much more. 

… the Council steps up …

At their meeting in Hailey, the Council continued to take the lead in this “One TU” effort, pledging up to $1,000 by matching $1 for every $2 raised by TU Idaho Chapters!  

… and chapters and members can now respond!

The call went out, and as of this writing donations have already been pledged and more are being considered by TU Idaho Chapters and members around the state.  For those wishing to donate personally, please click the “donate” button at the top of this web page.

Thank you all!

July 19, 2015

Posted by John C. Ellsworth, Idaho Trout Unlimited’s Yellowstone Cutthroat Coordinator and Andy Brunelle, TU Idaho Council

Updated telemetry tracking of your lake trout Judas fish!
 

Thanks to the hard work of the US Geological Survey (USGS) staff, we now have videos showing the movement of YOUR lake trout Judas fish in Yellowstone lake from fall 2013 through fall 2014, the latest comprehensive data available! 

The last posting of lake trout telemetry tracking videos was in summer 2013 (scroll down this page to the June 15, 2013 post to see those).  Since then, some tags have been lost, some fish have died and taken their tags to the lake bottom with them, and some tags have simply failed.  Therefore, many of the lake trout for our Idaho donors have been assigned new tag numbers.   

Although the videos are not yet loaded onto the USGS website, through special arrangement between Idaho TU and USGS we now have our Idaho sponsors’ videos available for you to view on YouTube and right here!  Simply scroll through the videos below to see yours, and all the others sponsored by Idaho Trout Unlimited and various clubs around the state. 

Before you do, here are some helpful hints about what you’ll see in the videos: 

Each time your Judas fish swam within range of a telemetry receiver, it’s presence was recorded and is displayed in the video as a small black diamond.   

In order to keep the size of the video files manageable, each frame of video represents a 3 day period.  As a result, there will be some frames with no black diamonds (your fish) showing.   

At other times in the videos, there will be multiple black diamonds at the same time, sometimes at quite some distance from one another, indicating the fish was moving rapidly. 

Throughout the majority of each video you will see some activity. If the black diamond disappears with time left at the end of the video, it usually indicates the fish is simply out of range of a receiver, or the fish has died and taken the transmitter to the lake bottom, or perhaps the transmitter has failed at that point in time. 

If the black diamond stays in one place for several frames, it usually means the fish is loitering in that area.

To access the following video play options, start the video then hover your mouse over any part of the video and you will see a menu bar appear at the bottom of the video screen:

To watch the video in full screen, click the “full screen” icon in the lower right hand corner,

If you want to speed up or slow down the video, click the little gear icon to the left of the YouTube logo in the lower right corner and it will show playing speed options,

And if you want to view the video on YouTube, click the YouTube icon.

Now, click on your video and enjoy watching your Judas fish betray his or her brethren in Yellowstone Lake while helping us Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout! 

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #87 – sponsored by Boise Valley Fly Fishers club

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #114 – sponsored by Fly Fishers of Idaho club

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #11 – sponsored by Idaho TU Hemingway chapter

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #64 – sponsored by TU Idaho Council

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #79 – sponsored by International Federation of Fly Fishers

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #1 – sponsored by Magic Valley Fly Fishers club

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #4 – sponsored by Magic Valley Fly Fishers club

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #45 – sponsored by Idaho TU Panhandle chapter

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #26 – sponsored by Idaho TU Southeast Idaho Fly Fishers Board of Directors

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #21 – sponsored by Idaho TU Southeast Idaho Fly Fishers

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #104 – sponsored by Snake River Cutthroats club

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #38 – sponsored by Idaho TU Teton Valley chapter

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #58 – sponsored by Idaho TU Three Rivers chapter

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #12 – sponsored by Idaho TU Ted Trueblood chapter Board of Directors

Yellowstone Lake trout tag #13 – sponsored by Idaho TU Ted Trueblood chapter

April 13, 2015
Posted by John C. Ellsworth, Idaho Trout Unlimited’s Yellowstone Cutthroat Coordinator

PROGRESS REPORT on SAVING THE YELLOWSTONE CUTTHROAT TROUT IN YELLOWSTONE LAKE
Presented to the Idaho Council of Trout Unlimited Spring Meeting
April 11, 2015 — Boise, Idaho
by John C. Ellsworth, TU Idaho Council Yellowstone Cutthroat Coordinator

(LKT = Lake Trout  … YCT = Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout)

Following is a summary of progress on suppressing LKT in 2014, as reported at the Feb. 3, 2015 meeting of the working group (composed of Yellowstone National Park, US Geological Survey, Trout Unlimited in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and TU National, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association, the International Federation of Fly Fishers, and the Yellowstone Park Foundation).

Executive Summary

The exciting core message for the public and our project supporters is:

The lake trout decline in Yellowstone Lake is resulting in an increase in Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations, and we must continue the work of restoring the Yellowstone cutthroat trout to its rightful place in the Yellowstone Lake system.

Overall CPUE (Catch Per Unit Effort) is now less than half of what it was just a few years ago which is an indicator of declining LKT numbers. Also contributing is the later start date. In 2014, 277,000 LKT were netted. There is still a large population of LKT in the lake, so it may be several years before a population crash. Cutthroat trout catches in nets is trending upwards both in total numbers and in more optimal size distributions (numbers of small and mid-sized cutthroats). They are catching fewer mature LKT in the LKT distribution netting. We have now recorded the second straight year in a row of LKT declines (as measured by CPUE and  population estimates) and the third straight year in a row of YCT increases in both total numbers and especially in young and mid-aged YCT survival (as measured by distribution netting, YCT by-catch, and spawning stream surveys). There was a drop in estimated total mortality rate for lake trout, but it’s 2nd highest we’ve achieved (just behind last year), helping to further decrease total population of lake trout in the lake. The data show the northern area of Yellowstone Lake has fewer LKT and the highest likelihood of LKT is in the West Thumb, the southern arms, and the area along the southeast shore between the two. Over the past year, 31 LKT and 14 YCT were tagged with tracking devices. This leaves a total number tagged in the system at roughly 139 LKT and 14 YCT, and at least 50 more LKT will be tagged in the coming summer. The telemetry goals for 2015 are as follows: 1) locate spawning sites, 2) locate areas where LKT concentrate during netting seasons, 3) determine periods of greatest LKT movement, and 4) determine fish travel corridors. Suspected spawning sites include Carrington Island, Olsen Reef, and Snipe Point. They hope to have the videos of individual tagged LKT movements updated on the USGS website within a couple of months. Electro-shocking results found many more eggs dead than alive after shocking around Carrington Island, Snipe Point, and Olsen Reef. Netting goals for 2015 include to match days on the lake from the previous year. Monitoring will continue, especially in the fall, to identify spawning areas. Similar to last year, Park staff will be attending public meetings in Park gateway communities to update attendees on the park-wide native fish conservation program. Funds raised by the partner organizations as of 4/2/15 (2008-2015 campaigns totals) is $1,050,990 with $549,206 total spent. All of the remaining funds are available for telemetry work.

Continuing funding support is essential to continuing success! In order to match the three-year $771,576 grant from the Wyoming legislature through their Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the partner organizations need to raise $137,000 in cash in 2015. Montana TU has committed to $10,000 per year for the next three years and Wyoming TU much more.  The Idaho Council has generously supported this project for several years.

NOW IS THE TIME for Idaho TU Chapters and individuals, as well as all other Idaho anglers and supporters of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout to make your 2015 financial donation to the Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat telemetry tracking fund-raising effort!

PLEASE USE THE “DONATE” BUTTON FOUND AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE AND ELSEWHERE ON THIS WEBSITE TO MAKE YOUR 2015 DONATION NOW!

 

Yellowstone Lake geologic map showing subsurface topography, and areas cited in Progress Report (South Arm, Southeast Arm, Flat Mountain Arm, Snipe Point, Plover Point, et al).  
Note: Carrington Island (red spot) lies just off the NW shore of West Thumb.
source: www.yellowstone.co

 

Now, the details of our progress in Saving the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in Yellowstone Lake …

2014 Netting Results

Pat Bigelow, Yellowstone National Park fisheries biologist reported a 20% increase in netting effort resulting in 74,000 total effort units (small and large mesh nets). Overall the catch per unit of effort (CPUE) this year went down from 6.62 to 5.1 for small mesh net and 1.99 to 1.84 for large mesh net. Overall CPUE is now less than half of what it was just a few years ago which is an indicator of declining LKT numbers. Also contributing is the later start date. In 2014, 277,000 LKT were netted. Fewer fish were netted this year because boats were unable to access the lake in the early spring due to the late ice off. Bigelow reported that boats were able to net in the southern bays this year. Catches of YCT in gillnets increased this year but the rate is still near 5% because effort units greatly increased. Dr. Robert Gresswell, USGS and lead researcher on this project pointed out there is still a large population of LKT in the lake, so it may be several years before a population crash.

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Population Response

Jeff Arnold, with the Yellowstone Center for Resources reported on the Yellowstone cutthroat population response.  He’s using three monitoring protocols: 1) spawning visual surveys (11 stream sites), 2) distribution netting (24 sites – 4 lake regions) and 3) fall netting assessment.  Arnold reported there were 160 spawning visuals this past year.  Of those, 120 were in one creek, Little Thumb.  Arnold said that 40 visuals per visit is the optimal goal.  Distribution nets were set at three different depths on the lake.  Arnold reported that cutthroat catches in nets is trending upwards both in total numbers and in more optimal size distributions (numbers of small and mid-sized cutthroats).  He also reported they are catching fewer mature LKT in the LKT distribution netting.  The data show that the northern area of Yellowstone Lake has fewer LKT and the highest likelihood of LKT is in the West Thumb, southern arms, and the area along the southeast shore between the two.  To date, cutthroat caught by recreation anglers on Yellowstone Lake continues to rise but has not met the desire of 1.5 fish per hour per angler.