An environmental assessment completed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks entitled, "Yellowstone River Cutthroat Trout Reintroduction," is available for public review and comment. The deadline for comment is September 30.
According to the plan, 6-inch-long pure strain Yellowstone cutthroat trout raised in state hatcheries would be released in a 25.1 mile stretch of the Yellowstone River. The release site extends from 2 miles above highway 212 bridge at Laurel to 2 miles below the East Bridge at Billings. The plan calls for 110,000 fish to be planted each year for five years. Monitoring the fish and angler catch rate would be part of the project.
"The proposal is for a put, grow and take' fishery using one of Montana's native trout species," says FWP Fisheries Biologist Ken Frazer of Billings. "Depending on what people think about this proposal it could fit into FWP's efforts to increase urban fisheries by providing a local, river-trout fishery within easy walking or biking distance of Billings."
Biologists believe the reintroduced cutthroat should grow well but say little if any natural reproduction can occur due to a lack of suitable spawning areas.
Montana does not stock fish in rivers and streams that support wild or naturally reproducing trout. This project is being considered because the stretch of the Yellowstone River between Laurel and Billings cannot support a naturally reproducing wild trout population. The proposed trout-stocking plan would, however, create new native trout fishing waters near urban areas and in a stretch of the Yellowstone River that currently provides few trout angling opportunities.
"Whether we go forward with this reintroduction plan or not will depend on people's response," says Frazer. "If this proposal is approved it will require a change in current fishing regulations to allow anglers to keep cutthroats caught in the project area."
People interested in reading the plan and commenting on it can pick it up at FWP headquarters in Billings, at 2300 Lake Elmo Drive, or by calling 247-2940 so one can be sent out.