Two traps designed to monitor fish movement between Lake Helena and the Missouri River’s Hauser Reservoir are being removed, state officials say.
The steel traps were installed under the Causeway Bridge in 2004 as part of the federal relicensing program for Hauser Dam. As part of the program, PPL Montana is required to monitor fish movement into and out of Lake Helena. PPL Montana pays FWP to do the work.
During the nearly two-years of operation: 99 rainbow and brown trout, 336 kokanee salmon, 24 yellow perch, 167 walleyes, 996 suckers, 32 carp and 2 ling were counted passing under the Causeway Bridge. All of the fish were collected and released.
This phase of the Lake Helena fish monitoring study is now ending.
Anglers had been concerned that the traps were unnaturally concentrating fish in the Causeway area resulting in overharvest. But, data collected from anglers showed that overharvest was not occurring based on the percentage of tagged fish kept by anglers compared to the total estimated fish population. In addition, FWP left the traps open on weekends throughout the spring so that fish movement was not unduly restricted. Biologists used the traps to catch fish during the week as part of the research project, allowing free movement of fish on weekends.
Biologists had hoped that the experimental Causeway traps would be an effective monitoring tool to better understand fish use of Lake Helena. Unfortunately, the traps did not collect as many fish as biologists hoped, and they required a lot of maintenance. The dam relicensing requirements are ongoing, so future fish monitoring methods in Lake Helena will be under review.As always, the Causeway Bridge area remains a popular multi-species fishing destination for shore anglers of all abilities.