Thursday, December 05, 1996Headwater Tributaries Proposed for Westslope Cutthroat Trout Recovery
Thirty headwater portions of upper Madison River tributaries have been identified as potential candidates for westslope cutthroat trout restoration. Most of the headwater tributaries appear to provide ideal cutthroat trout habitat.
The proposal seeks to examine the streams and then, where appropriate, reestablish the westslope cutthroat trout and recruit the native fish to the Madison River to fill a portion of the niche left by the decline in rainbow trout. FWP would work to restore the westslope cutthroat to at least 10 of the streams by 2001 and complete the project by 2006.
Only one stream--Soap Creek--has been confirmed to still hold a limited population of westslope cutthroat trout. A second stream, Horse Creek, which flows in the Madison about a mile below Palisades, is suspected to support a small population of westslope cutts.
Initially identified as possible streams for immediate westslope cutthroat trout recovery are Soap and Gazelle creeks, both tributaries to the West Fork of the Madison River; and Standard Creek and a small, unnamed spring creek. Both streams flow into the Madison River in the West Fork vicinity. At this time, researchers believe whirling disease is not likely to be in these streams and that the streams are relatively free of tubifex worms. The streams will be extensively examined before recovery work begins.
Here is a rundown on the proposal for these four streams:
Soap Creek The primary goal in Soap Creek would be to protect and enhance the existing genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout population in the stream's upper reaches. A waterfall-like barrier would be constructed on the stream that to allow young cutthroat trout--the progeny of the resident population--to migrate downstream into the Madison.
By impeding a trout's movement upstream, the barrier would attempt to ensure that the headwater population remains genetically pure and free from Madison River fish that may be carrying whirling disease. Soap Creek would also undergo some stream rehabilitation, including the removal of introduced fish species. Gazelle Creek In Gazelle Creek, which flows into the West Fork about 3 miles below Soap Creek, the project goal would be to establish a genetically pure population of westslope cutthroat trout. The creek contains a natural waterfall barrier. Previously introduced Yellowstone cutthroat trout and rainbow trout would be removed from the creek above the falls and the stream would be restocked with genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout. Standard Creek and the unnamed spring creek Standard Creek flows from the Gravelly Range and into the Madison River about two miles below the West Fork. The spring creek reaches the Madison about four miles above the West Fork. These waters contribute to the flows of FWP's 20-year-old Snoball study area that extends from the mouth of Squaw Creek to Windy Point. The goal would be to determine how well the headwater-spawned westslope cutthroat trout function in the mainstem of the Madison River. The proposal calls for the creeks to be stocked with genetically pure young-of-the year westslope cutts in August 1997. In a sense, these streams would serve as a project control to determine if stocking is successful and if the stocked fish contract whirling disease. The research would also focus on how many fish migrate downstream to the river and if the migrant fish survive in the river. These fish could return to the tributaries to spawn. Barriers to prevent spawners from returning to the upper reaches of Standard Creek could be constructed at a later date. Other upper Madison River tributaries under consideration for westslope cutthroat trout restoration include the following creeks that flow into the west side of the river: Sheep, Mile, Meridian, Tepee, Freezeout, Lake, Bogus, Horse, Quaking Aspen, Wall, Bobcat, English George, Hyde, Ruby, Dry Hollow, Wigwam, and Eightmile. Candidate streams that flow into the river's east side include these creeks: Trout, Pine Butte, Papoose, Squaw, Moose, Wolf, Corral, Indian, and Jack.