You would think that finding fewer lake trout in an area wouldn’t be a good thing.
That’s not the case in Yellowstone National Park’s Yellowstone Lake.
Fewer lakers there means that efforts to restore cutthroat trout to the lake are working. “The cutthroat population has tripled,” says Cody, Wyoming’s Dave Sweet of Trout Unlimited about the last four years.
Lake trout aren’t native to Yellowstone Lake. The species’ aggressiveness was threatening to wipe out cutthroat. The ratio of lakers to cutthroat was at 90-10. Today, the ratio is closer to 50-50.
Efforts to restore cutthroat trout in the lake began 8.5 years ago, led by Sweet. Tactics have included hiring gillnetters to catch and kill lakers in the summer months. The annual summer cull has taken about 300,000 lake trout from the lake.
Recent efforts include inserting telemetry gadgets into the trout to find where they are spawning in order to eliminate the fry.
The technique has led people to 12 spawning areas, so far.
The introduction of lake trout into Yellowstone Lake impacted the entire ecosystem, says Sweet. Cutthroat trout swim near the surface of the water and provided food for bears, osprey, eagles and other species.
“It’s a good fish in the wrong place,” Sweet says of lakers.