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About the Program

The Blackfoot Challenge is initiating an Adopt-A-Trout Program in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The Blackfoot Watershed is home to many unique fish and wildlife species including native westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout. Conservation education and habitat restoration efforts are currently underway to restore and protect these native fish. This innovative project will link data of fish migrations collected by fisheries biologists to teachers and students in the Blackfoot Watershed through this website.

Why the name Adopt-A-Trout?

Adopt-A-Trout started as an educational program to promote native species conservation in west central Montana, by linking research on native fish (specifically westslope cutthroat trout) to school children in rural Montana schools. Although the goal is the same, we have incorporated additional species (last year largescale suckers) and this year non-native, introduced northern pike into the program so students can be involved with current research projects that focus on native fish conservation.

Jim McFee with a northern pike captured in a trap net in Milltown Reservoir in 2002.Jim McFee with a northern pike captured in a trap net in Milltown Reservoir in 2002.

This year in the Adopt-A-Trout program student will have the opportunity to adopt northern pike in Milltown Reservoir. Northern pike in Milltown Reservoir will be implanted with radio transmitters in the spring to help Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) biologists determine their spawning locations. Since 1999, MFWP has been concerned with the spread of northern pike and biologists have been evaluating measures for controlling the number of northern pike in the reservoir. Northern pike are the most abundant fish in the reservoir, have decimated the resident fish and seasonally eat fish out migrating from the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers, including bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout. In fact, seasonally, bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout are the most abundant food northern pike stomachs. Northern pike threaten native game and non game fish in the area and sport fish like rainbow and brown trout. Since 1999, MFWP has been using summer drawdowns in the reservoir to strand and kill young northern pike that us the shallow weedy areas as rearing habitat to limit recruitment. Last year biologists trapped and removed adult fish with they were spawning, and removed about 40% of the adult northern pike. In order to figure out where the rest of the northern pike are spawning in 2003 biologists will put transmitters into northern pike and track them to their spawning locations. In addition, since northern pike often move out of the reservoir and into the rivers after spawning, we will be able to track their movements.

The remains of a bull trout collected from northern pike stomach in Milltown Reservoir.The remains of a bull trout collected from northern pike stomach in Milltown Reservoir. We capture more bull trout in the stomachs of northern pike than by any other means.

For more information about northern pike in Milltown Reservoir and the removal project, see: