Yellowstone Cutthroat Can Use Your Voice!

Vast numbers of Yellowstone cutthroats spawning in a Yellowstone Lake tributary before lake trout were found in the lake.

Vast numbers of Yellowstone cutthroats spawning in a Yellowstone Lake tributary before the decline.

Many of you read our last post about Yellowstone Lake and the effort to save the Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT) population therein. As we wrote “opponents of the lake trout suppression efforts have made a number of claims that warrant a response.” We’re asking you to be part of that response by letting the Park Service know they have your support for the effort, including support for the removal of lake trout (LT) that threaten the YCT population. A minor but vocal few have criticized the National Park Service’s (NPS’s) actions to suppress lake trout via netting and ova suppression. They have suggested that the Park discontinue LT suppression in the name of ‘wild trout conservation’ (by which is meant, lake trout conservation in Yellowstone Lake). This would doom the majority of the remaining cutthroats in the system.

We are asking that you consider writing to Superintendent Daniel Wenk to voice your support for the efforts of the NPS (in conjunction with the USGS, TU, GYC and NPCA) to control the invasive LT in the system thus allowing the cutthroats to survive and repopulate.
Mail letters to:
Superintendent Daniel Wenk
Yellowstone National Park
P. O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Please personalize your letter, especially include any past experiences that you may have had before LT invasion of the system (Yellowstone Lake and it’s tributaries including the upper Yellowstone River and the Thorofare River) and your desire to see the cutthroat population restored. We need to share what this system meant to the angling public before lake trout.

Points to consider could include:
1. The overall decline of YCT’s throughout their range (currently 43% of historical with ¼ of that suffering from hybridization). YL used to be the stronghold for the species with 4 million individuals, safe from climate change, habitat loss, development, hybridization. Current YCT populations are less than 10% of historical in the Lake.

2. The YCT is the only native trout to the YL system. The YL system was the single largest genetically pure remaining population of YCT’s anywhere. As such, it is a key population to the health of the species and needs our help to be recovered.

3. The YCT is the keystone species to an entire ecosystem. The decline in its population has impacted this entire ecosystem and some 40 other species.

4. The YCT in YL was a huge economic driver both as a popular sport fish but also a tourist draw to Fishing Bridge, Le Hardy Rapids, and elsewhere.

5. The LT is an invasive, no matter how it was introduced, that has not only decimated this YCT population but doesn’t fill the ecosystem needs that the YCT did. It is also not a replacement sport fish of the same caliber as the YCT.

6. The NPS is using the best available science, supported by a Science Review Panel of fisheries professionals from academia, governmental agencies, and non-governmental groups (TU, GYC and NPCA).

Overall, make your letter about your experience and not just a repeat of these points. For example, relate why you would or have visited Yellowstone specifically to fish for YCT’s or if you had a chance to witness the incredible spawning runs of cutthroat before the impact of lake trout. Or about why you would like to visit Yellowstone National Park with the YCT population restored. We need to show the value placed on this fishery the way it was by anglers like you who had a chance to know and love this incredible place and also by anglers who value the recovery of the Yellowstone Cutthroats to this system.

Thanks for your support of the Yellowstone cutthroat!

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Yellowstone Lake – The Facts

As many of you already know Trout Unlimited strongly supports the efforts of National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and others to recover the native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (YCT) population associated with Yellowstone Lake and the Upper Yellowstone River.

As part of that conservation mission, TU strongly supports efforts to suppress the nonnative lake trout population in Yellowstone Lake. Opponents of the lake trout suppression efforts have made a number of claims that warrant a response. Here are some frequently asked questions, along with the facts:

Why do Yellowstone cutthroat trout need to be protected?
Yellowstone cutthroat in Yellowstone Lake are the largest genetically pure population of the subspecies on Earth; if they are not restored, the likelihood of listing under the ESA and more restrictive regulations increases substantially. YCTs serve a critical role in the lake ecosystem, providing an important food source for bear, osprey, eagles, and many other species. (Lake trout, by contrast, live primarily in deep water, only entering the shallower parts of the Lake to feed on cutthroats or to spawn. They rarely, if ever, ascend the tributaries. Thus, they do not serve as a food source for other predator species.) Moreover, YCTs have important human values: The YCT population has been a historic draw for Park visitation and an economic driver for tourism and recreation.

So why are Yellowstone lake trout a problem?
Since the discovery of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake in 1994, the once abundant Yellowstone cutthroat population has declined dramatically to less than 10 percent of their historic numbers. Of all the possible factors leading to this decline, biologists and fisheries managers have overwhelmingly pointed to one as the main culprit—predation by lake trout. Suppression of lake trout has been called for by an independent, expert scientific panel that was first convened in 1995 and has reviewed the matter several times, most recently in 2012, when the panel called for doubling suppression efforts.

Couldn’t the cutthroat decline be explained by other factors?
There is no scientific evidence suggesting that whirling disease, drought, fire or some other cause has resulted in the drastic drop in Yellowstone cutts in Yellowstone Lake. All studies point to lake trout.

Haven’t lake trout been in Yellowstone Lake for more than a century?
The oldest lake trout in the Lake has been found to be only 21 years old, half of their typical life span. This indicates the population established itself around 1990, which is corroborated by the fact that the first verified lake trout catch was in 1994. In addition, a scientific study of these first catches indicates that these lake trout spent their early years in a different water body, most likely Lewis Lake.

But is there proof that they’re eating cutthroats?
Extensive studies and analysis in the 1990s revealed that fish comprised 95 percent of the diet of age 4+ lake trout in Yellowstone Lake, and most of the consumed fish were Yellowstone cutts. Prior to the introduction of lake trout to Yellowstone Lake, there were no fish predators eating YCTs; the drastic reduction in Yellowstone cutts since the lake trout population became established is irrefutable.

Why can’t the lake trout and cutthroats coexist? They do in other Park lakes.
That’s true, but fish biologists say that’s because those lakes have more varied fish populations. In Heart and Jackson lakes, which also have non-native lake trout, the presence of many more fish species for lake trout to eat has likely moderated their impact on Yellowstone cutts in those lakes. In Yellowstone Lake, essentially the only fish in significant numbers for lake trout to eat are YCTs.

Why should the Park Service be spending millions on lake trout suppression when other services are being curtailed? Isn’t the effort too expensive?
The lake trout suppression effort costs about $2 million/year. In contrast, the YCT fishery was bringing in an estimated $30 million in economic activity in the early 1990s when populations were still robust. From an economic perspective, it makes sense to save the YCT fishery.

Is the lake trout a “bad fish,” then?
No. Many anglers seek out opportunities to catch lake trout, a popular game fish in their native waters of the Upper Midwest. But in the Intermountain West, several states (including Wyoming, Idaho and Montana) are trying to suppress them because of the damage they cause to native fisheries. And in the West (most notably Yellowstone Lake), native cutthroat trout provide better opportunities for anglers and far greater economic benefit for local communities.

Have the lake trout removal operations been successful?
The suppression efforts are showing important signs of progress, with improved YCT numbers. While lake trout in Yellowstone Lake cannot be completely eradicated, the Scientific Review Panel believes that if present culling efforts continue, YCTs can rebound to the more robust population levels recorded in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This would be an important victory for YCT conservation. Now is the time to redouble our YCT restoration efforts—not call them off.

For more information, contact:
David Sweet,
Wyoming Trout Unlimited
davidps@tritel.net
(307) 527-9959

Scott Christy
Wyoming Trout Unlimited
schristy@tu.org
(307)-332-7700 x. 12

You can also get a downloadable version of this post here..

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Join Us on May 4th!

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The Trout Tale – Spring 2013 Issue

The spring 2013 issue of the WYTU’s Trout Tale is hot off the digital presses! Click on the e-reader below or here to download the PDF version and see what Trout Unlimited has been up to across the Cowboy State!

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Tie One On with TU

Tie One On with TU
May 4th
Hotel Terra, Teton Village

Do you want to have one heck of a great night and support fisheries conservation in Wyoming? If so, you are cordially invited to join Wyoming Trout Unlimited and the Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited Chapter on May 4 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the first-ever “Tie One On” with Trout Unlimited (TU) fundraising event.

The event will be held at the beautiful Hotel Terra in Teton Village in conjunction with the WYTU annual meeting that will take place on May 2-5. With a reception-style dinner, no-host cash bar, raffle drawings, silent and live auctions on hand, it’s sure to be a great evening. Wyoming Trout Unlimited and the Jackson TU chapter have procured an impressive list of prizes for the night including a variety of great rifles and shotguns, guided fishing float trips from across Wyoming, tons of related fishing items feature live music by local Jackson bluegrass favorites “Steam Powered Airplane.” Social hour will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the event will get under way at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the event are $75 each and all proceeds will go to benefit the Jackson Hole TU Chapter and Wyoming Trout Unlimited. You can purchase tickets online here or contact Scott Christy at (307) 332-7700 ext. 12 or e-mail him at: schristy@tu.org.

If you purchase a ticket on-line, please print the receipt of your ticket purchase and present it at the door for admittance. In addition, if you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this outstanding event, please call Scott Christy at the number listed earlier.

For those banquet attendees who would like to stay at Hotel Terra the night of the event, WYTU has arranged a special rate of $119 per night single or double occupancy. Make sure when making reservations, you identify yourself as a guest of the Wyoming Trout Unlimited Council meeting. To make reservations, call (307) 739-4000 or toll-free at 1-800-631-6281.

So come out on May 4, have a fantastic evening and support Wyoming Trout Unlimited and Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited at Hotel Terra in Teton Village.

As previously mentioned, the “Tie One On” with WYTU fundraiser is being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited and will also be a great opportunity to meet TU leaders and staff from around the Cowboy state. The annual meeting features Wyoming TU chapter leadership that gather twice a year in the form of the council to work on statewide fisheries conservation business, conduct pertinent training sessions as well as to receive updates from TU staff on their Wyoming work. Elections for new WYTU officers will also be held and nominations for those open positions will be taken prior to the election.

This year, in addition to the usual business, the council has arranged for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) to conduct an additional Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Inspector Training class on Thursday, May 2, in Jackson. Given the new AIS regulations that take effect this year, all watercraft coming into Wyoming (even if from out of state and for only part of a day) must be certified AIS-free prior to launching in Wyoming waters. That means if you take a day trip to the South Fork of the Snake or the Green below Flaming Gorge, you will need to have your boat inspected prior to launching on the Snake near Jackson or the Green near Pinedale as an example. Participants completing this class will become certified AIS watercraft inspectors with the ability to inspect boats, including their own. For more information specific to this AIS training session in Jackson, please go to the WGFD website at: http:// wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/fishing-1001290.aspx. And, this class is absolutely free.

Did we mention that there is likely to be some great pre-runoff fly fishing opportunities in Jackson in early May? Purchase your banquet tickets today and we’ll look forward to seeing you on May 4 at Hotel Terra for a great night of raising money for the benefit of coldwater conservation.

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No Million Pipeline Means a New Hat? Sign Me Up!

This week WYTU can use your help. We want to collect as many signatures as possible opposing the Million Pipeline proposal to take 81 billion gallons of water a year out of the Green River in Wyoming and pipe it down to the Front Range of Colorado.

For every 50 signatures we receive this week we’ll draw a WYTU hat for a lucky winner! To sign up against the Pipeline and to enter the drawing for a WYTU Bucking Fish hat either leave a comment or send an email to schristy@tu.org with:
(your name)
(City/State)
(email address)

Thanks for your support!

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The Trout Tale – Winter 2012/2013 Issue

Happy Holidays from WYTU! This holiday season, we’re pleased to release the latest greatest issue of the Trout Tale, WYTU’s quarterly newsletter in PDF form at the link below. Want to find out more about our Muddy Creek Project work, Adopt a Trout program, Cody fish rescue, Yellowstone Lake, TU’s Sportsmen’s Conserservation Project, or who from Wyoming won an award for catching the biggest fish at the Utah Single Fly competition? Looking for news from our Wyoming TU Chapters and other fisheries conservation updates from around the state? Get the PDF below and find out more about what has been going on in the TU world across Wyoming!

WYTU Winter 2013 Newsletter

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Wyoming Livestock Roundup and TU’s Cory Toye

Be sure to check out the full article in pdf form on proposed stream flow legislation from the latest issue of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup by WYTU water guru Wyoming Water Project Director Cory Toye.

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Colorado TU Chapter President Presents on Threat of Trans-Basin Diversions to Wyoming

The Saratoga Sun recently covered a fantastic presentation to Platte Valley TU by Kirk Klancke, Colorado River Headwaters TU Chapter President, on the dangers posed to fisheries trans-basin diversions. Kirk has seen firsthand how these diversions can dewater historic fisheries as the front range of Colorado continues it’s water consumption growth. We highly recommend you check out the full article.

We’d like to thank Kirk for helping us stay educated about this threat and point out that you too can help us stop these same kind of proposals here in Wyoming by heading to Sportsmen for the Green and signing up in opposition to Colorado developer Aaron Millon’s pipeline proposal.

For the sake of fish, lets keep our water in Wyoming.

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TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project – Fall Blog

Dave Glenn of TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project showcases our great public land heritage in Wyoming. Check it out and also take a look at what Sportsmen’s Conservation Project is doing to protect backcountry area habitat for quality fishing and hunting.

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