GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

All posts tagged trout

Success reported in saving Yellowstone’s cutthroat trout

Categories: Flora and Fauna, On the Web, Wildlife
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An excellent article quoted from the Cody Enterprise on YellowstoneInsider.com tells about the remarkable turnaround in the fishing scene in our oldest national park. Since the mid 1990s, when large lake trout were introduced into Yellowstone Lake from an unknown source, the carnivorous fish have been devouring native cutthroats, a so-called keystone species. Combating them has been a struggle, since lake trout swim and spawn in the deepest water, while cutthroat trout swim near the surface and spawn in inlet streams.

lake trout cutthroat trout

Trout comparison (NPS Photo)

The National Park Service and the Yellowstone Park Foundation have cooperated in fighting lake trout since soon after they were discovered, but at first with limited success. In the last six years, however, things have been turning around. Gillnetting and electrofishing removed about 300,000 lake trout last year. And the latest technique is particularly effective. Quoting the Yellowstone Insider article: “over the past few years, crews have started catching and attaching telemetry gadgets to the fish; telemetry allows crews to trace lake trout to their spawning beds and remove both fish and fry from them.”

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Does Yellowstone Need to Raise Entrance Fees?

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Since 2006 a family’s private passenger car has been able to enter Yellowstone and the Tetons combined for a $25.00 entrance fee. If you return several times in a year, you are better off to buy the $50.00 annual pass for both parks. Seniors (62 and older) are able to purchase a $10.00 pass good for their lifetimes, a bargain for sure, what with the increasing lifespans of today’s seniors.

Now the National Park Service is proposing the following fee schedule:
1- to 3-day pass to Yellowstone only for $30.00
1- to 7-day pass to both Yellowstone and the Tetons for $50.00
Separate annual passes for each park for $60.00.

Eighty percent of the money derived from entrance fees goes to the park where it is collected, while twenty percent goes to the general NPS fund, mostly used for parks where fees are not collected. There is also an annual national park appropriation from Congress, which for many years has been inadequate to cover even routine expenses, such as park personnel salaries, utility bills, and the like.

Looking at what the “extra” money from entrance fees goes for in Yellowstone, most of it is desperately needed for maintenance of buildings and roads, now used by over three million visitors each year. More money for Yellowstone can also mean that the park can continue and expand the fight against the lake trout, those huge fish that have been decimating the native cutthroat population so many park animals depend upon.

NPS is accepting comments on their website (not by e-mail or fax). You can read the entire fee change document there. Use this link to comment on it. You have through Saturday, December 20th, to comment. Click on Entrance Fee Proposal and then in the Comment Now box.

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Rebecca and Ryan Means from Florida are gradually fulfilling an unusual goal. They’re hiking “on a quest to identify and visit the most remote locations in each of the 50 states.”

Not just enjoying the out-of-doors far from civilization, they have a mission. The essence of their philosophy is shown in Ryan Means’ answer to a comment last year on his website, remotefootprints.org: “The conservation problem arises when loud, fuel consumptive, destructive, motorized vehicles enter wildlands. The landscape gets scarred. Habitat and wilderness character get lost. Another roadless wildland gets fragmented. Then development usually follows. We are basically calling for an end to the era of road building (and sprawling development) in our great country, especially in public lands.”

They hike carrying heavy packs—Rebecca’s includes a carrier for five-year-old Skyla. So far they have written up their visits to remote spots in 23 states. They don’t always find solitude, but they do get far away from roads and navigable rivers. They especially loved Wyoming’s most remote spot, the Thorofare corner of Yellowstone, 21.6 miles by their reckoning from the nearest road, even farther by trail. The Means’s experiences on this trip have not yet appeared on their website, but their trip was mentioned on October 4, 2014 in the Rapid City (SD) Journal.

Reading this, I thought of one of the selections in my upcoming book (with the working title, Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors). I was reminded of Barton Evermann’s 1891 commission to find how trout got into Yellowstone Lake. He visited and carefully described a phenomenal place called Two-Ocean Pass, just south of the Thorofare and the park’s border.

My own related delight is in finding places—even in the hills just above my noisy downtown Oakland—where stopping on a trail you hear no sound, unless it’s a distant bird or a trickling stream. It clears the head. And there are so many such places to be found in Yellowstone. . . .

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Lake trout in Yellowstone Lake now less menacing to native wildlife

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lake trout cutthroat trout

Trout comparison (NPS Photo)

Back in 1994 someone must have purposely and illegally stocked Yellowstone Lake with lake trout. Before it could be proven that these non-native fish had spread throughout the lake, they began adversely affecting the much smaller native cutthroat trout.

Many Yellowstone animals depend on the native fish as an important part of their diet but cannot catch the big lake trout. For example, grizzly bears and pelicans eat cutthroat from the lake, particularly in early summer.

Now, with major help from sources such as the Yellowstone Foundation and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Board, more and more lake trout are being removed every year— up to 300,000 in 2013 alone. At the same time many more juvenile cutthroat trout are surviving than in the early years of this century.

Three commercial boats and one National Park Service boat regularly net the lake trout with gill and trap nets and also use electroshocking. In addition they use telemetry by tagging some fish to locate lake trout spawning sites, and the movement of those fish toward spawning beds in the fall can now be tracked. A volunteer from Trout Unlimited said recently, “These patterns indicated at least three areas of suspected spawning activity: just off West Thumb Geyser Basin; off Solution Creek; and in the Plover Point, Frank Island triangle. Because these were suspected spawning grounds, arrays of receivers along with reference signals were placed in these three areas in early September in an effort to pinpoint any spawning beds in these areas.”

Meanwhile, anglers again this summer must kill all lake trout and either eat them or puncture the air bladder and dispose of the carcass in deep water. And cutthroat trout must be returned to the water immediately.

See the book excerpt about fish and fishing if you’d like to know more about the subject.

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The Yellowstone grizzly bear’s chances for survival

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The question of whether or not the grizzly bear should be removed from the Endangered Species List is still being studied. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will present its report December 11 in Missoula, MT. Grizzlies may not really be at risk, their report says, since the bears do not depend greatly on the now-relatively-scarce whitebark pine nuts for late-season food preparing them for hibernation, as many knowledgeable people have asserted. Instead, they are turning more to meat and foraging at lower elevations than previously. “A 75 percent reduction in whitebark numbers since 2002 isn’t cause for worry,” states the study’s report.

But other bear experts disagree that the grizzly population is out of danger. A retired bear biologist stated that three of the bears’ four main sources of food have declined recently: “We’ve got catastrophic loss of whitebark pine, catastrophic loss of cutthroat trout, and major declines in numbers of elk. [Only] army cutworm moths are hanging in there,” he told the Jackson (WY) News and Guide.

For my money, it looks like this bear population of Greater Yellowstone, which is variously stated as between 600 and 700-plus individuals, is not out of danger yet. The entire article by Mike Koshmrl is called “Pine Decline OK for Grizzly.”

No posts from me next week, since I’ll be attending the American Geophysical Union annual meeting to learn more about new research pertaining to Yellowstone.

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Alerts for boat owners and fisher-people

Categories: Flora and Fauna
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My information on boating regulations comes from the Laurel, Montana “Outlook.”

In order to protect the waters of Yellowstone, all motorized and non-motorized watercraft entering the park’s lakes must now pass an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) inspection on their boats as part of the watercraft permitting process.
National Park Service staff will also conduct daily required inspections, seven days per week, for all boats that launch from Bridge Bay, Grant Village and Lewis Lake boat ramps.

Information on boating and boat permitting in Yellowstone can be found at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/boating.htm.
Information on AIS can be found at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fishingexotics.htm.

– – – – –

And from the National Park Service:

The park has updated its fishing regulations for the season which began on Saturday, May 25, with the goal of aiding the park’s Native Fish Conservation Plan. Native fish found in Yellowstone waters include cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish, and Arctic grayling; all of these must be released unharmed when caught. Anglers are reminded that they may use only barbless artificial flies and lures and lead-free sinkers when fishing in the park.

To help protect native fish species, the limit on non-native fish caught in the park’s Native Trout Conservation Area has been eliminated. This includes all park waters except the Madison and Firehole rivers, the Gibbon River below Gibbon Falls, and Lewis and Shoshone lakes.

Rainbow or brook trout caught in the Lamar River drainage must be harvested in order to protect native cutthroat trout in the headwater reaches of the drainage. This includes Slough and Soda Butte Creeks. Anglers are also reminded that all lake trout caught in Yellowstone Lake must be killed to help cutthroat trout restoration efforts.

2013

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Absaroka-Beartooth Front

Absaroka-Beartooth Front. Photo ©2011 Dave Showalter/ iLCP.

When my husband Bruno and I accepted an invitation to a downtown San Francisco reception given by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, we thought it would be fun to meet some people involved with this organization and learn more about what they do. Walking into The Matrix one evening last week—the only rainy week we’ve had this winter in the Bay Area—we were greeted by friendly people, not just by barkeeps but by GYC board member Charlotte Vaughan Winton and very tall, bearded Executive Director Mike Clark.

The Matrix is a Marina District jazz club owned by Judge William Newsom, father of the former mayor of San Francisco and present Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom. We were in good hands, and Judge Newsom was most generous with free drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

The serious part of this gathering was to explain to us what and where the Absaroka-Beartooth Front is and why it needs protection. The slide show given by Northwest Wyoming Director Barbara Cozzens did not provide a map but did include interesting pictures of the rare high-elevation meadows, mountain views, bighorn sheep, and unspoiled terrain. The area is roughly defined as the area of public lands just east of Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, a good deal of which is on the Shoshone National Forest.

Shoshone National Forest is in the process of updating its management plan this year. They need to find a balance between the pressures of interests advocating industrial and motorized use of the area and people and organizations who believe in trying to manage the land and wildlife with the long view toward conservation for future generations.

Threatened by rural land development and oil and gas drilling projects, the Shoshone and nearby lands are “one of the wildest places remaining in the lower 48 states,” according to the GYC website,

The Front hosts the full complement of native Yellowstone wildlife, including large herds of all of North America’s big-game species—pronghorn, elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat—as well some of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears and wolves outside of a national park. Genetically pure populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout inhabit the region’s pristine, free-flowing rivers and streams.
This area also supports a number of significant big game migration routes, including one of the longest-known elk migration routes in North America, with animals migrating over 60 miles from the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park to the region’s public and private lands.

A map and much more information is at: http://greateryellowstone.org/issues/lands/Feature.php?id=300.

2012

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