Fish The Fish Raises $15,000 for Breast Cancer Recovery

Congratulations to the Whitefish Knotty Nymyphs. Here’s the good news from their press release

Inaugural Fish the Fish Event Raises $15,000 for Breast Cancer Recovery

FVTU was there!

FVTU was there!

WHITEFISH; September X, 2013 – Hundreds attended a new community event called Fish the Fish, held August 13 at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and helped raise a whopping $15,000 for breast cancer recovery.  The funds will send 14 local women battling breast cancer to a Casting For Recovery fly fishing retreat in West Glacier.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have such tremendous support from the Flathead community – from everyone who attended Fish the Fish to the Whitefish Knotty Nymphs who created and hosted the event,” said Whitney Milhoan, Executive Director of Casting For Recovery’s national organization and West Glacier resident. “Funding a full retreat is a significant contribution. It will have such a powerful impact on so many lives.”

Casting For Recovery is a national nonprofit that provides opportunities for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a natural setting and learn the sport of fly fishing. The retreats offer not just fly fishing, but fellowship, counseling, education, and networking that are invaluable supports for women battling breast cancer. This is the third year that the local program has held a retreat.

“We want thank everyone who attended Fish the Fish and made donations to see the great travel trailers and who purchased raffle tickets,” said Susan Howard, Fish the Fish coordinator and head of the Whitefish Knotty Nymphs, a local group of women who are passionate about fly fishing and meaningful causes in the Flathead. “We’re already making plans for Fish the Fish 2014 so that we can offer the community even more fun, and so we can raise even more money in the fight against breast cancer.”

Fish the Fish offered an afternoon of unique activities and entertainment to the public, including a fly fishing expo, vintage travel trailer tour, fly fishing casting competition and a raffle for significant prizes such as Spotted Bear Ranch and Lakestream Outfitters guided fly fishing trips. Fish the Fish attendees were able to tour over 60 refurbished vintage travel trailers caravanned in from all over the country by the nationally famous Sisters on the Fly, a group of over 4,000 women bonded by fly fishing and remodeling vintage trailers for their outdoor expeditions.

Direct donations to Casting For Recovery can be made at http://www.FishtheFish2013.com. For more information about Casting For Recovery visit www.castingforrecovery.org. For more information about the Whitefish Knotty Nymphs visit Facebook.

CSKT Tribal Council Recommends a Preferred Alternative

CONFEDERATED SALISH & KOOTENAI TRIBES

Natural Resources Department
Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation & Conservation
P.O. Box 278
Pablo, MT 59855
(406) 675-2700 extension 7299

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       csktlogo

Contact: Germaine White —  germainew@cskt.org
Information and Education Specialist

Thursday, September 12, 2013

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Tribal Council Recommends a Preferred Alternative

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have recommended a preferred alternative for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS): Proposed Strategies to Benefit Native Species by Reducing the Abundance of Lake Trout in Flathead Lake, Montana.

The DEIS evaluated the implementation of methods outlined in the Flathead Lake and River System Co-Management Plan (Co-plan) for non-native lake trout suppression. It presented four alternatives with differing degrees of lake trout population reduction and for each alternative, examined the potential benefits to native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout as well as the biological, social, and economic impacts. The DEIS remains available online for informational purposes at mackdays.com.

The recommendation of the preferred alternative is the culmination of more than three years of careful analysis of current fisheries research, scientific study, and broad public scoping and comment periods, including a series of community meetings. State and federal agencies with fisheries expertise in the Flathead watershed and several renowned scientists participated in the development of the findings in the DEIS. Each alternative is designed to implement measures that increase the number of native fish in Flathead Lake and River while maintaining a recreational fishery. Alternative D is recommended as the preferred alternative.

This recommendation is consistent with direction given to the CSKT and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission by the Flathead Reservation Fish and Wildlife Board (Board) in a letter dated September 9, 2013. The Board is made up of seven members representing the tribal and non-tribal communities and is appointed by the Tribal Chairman and the Governor. The Board has overseen this process since the adoption of the Co-Plan in 2000 and has urged that the co-managers fully implement the Co-Plan. Both public and agency comments received on the DEIS overwhelming favored the use of additional tools to reduce non-native lake trout abundance.

Alternative D provides the greatest flexibility in Flathead Lake fisheries management. The selection of this alternative does not obligate the harvest of a specific number of lake trout annually, but it rather determines that the impacts of doing so have been fully quantified. Alternative D analyzes the effects of a maximum 75% reduction of the adult lake trout population, although this target level will not be pursued unless needed. The specifics of the alternative, including timing, techniques, and personnel will be identified subsequently in a detailed implementation plan. Most importantly, the preferred alternative allows flexibility for managers as circumstances change and new information is obtained.

The public will have another opportunity to comment when the Bureau of Indian Affairs publishes the notice of availability for the Final EIS. A record of decision (ROD) will follow that comment period, and then the CSKT will begin working with co-managers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies in the development of an implementation plan. The implementation of an adaptive management plan will ultimately guide which of the newly available suppression methods have the least by-catch of other fish species and are most compatible with the existing angler-based approaches used to balance the fishery as envisioned by the co-plan. As in the past, annual monitoring and reporting of progress under the co-plan goals will ultimately decide the level of improvement to native trout populations and the best balance for a recreational fishery.

For more information contact Tom McDonald or Germaine White at Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation or Conservation at (406) 883-2888.

Here’s what you SHOULD be hearing from FWP on the Flathead Lake DEIS

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is staffed by talented managers and biologists doing great work for Montana’s fish, wildlife, and parks around the state. Unfortunately, FWP managers are choosing speculation over peer-reviewed science and sound economics to drum up opposition to the Flathead Lake Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). A recent newspaper column, a letter or two by Flathead Lake commercial fishermen, and an editorial in a local paper all repeat inaccurate and unfounded arguments in opposition to the Flathead Lake DEIS. Here’s what FWP is not including in their information on opposition to the proposed plan.

1) The tribes have employed the scientific method with peer review using data and state of the art population modeling developed by well-regarded experts. This was undertaken at great cost, just as the tribes fund the Mack Days contests to the tune of $350,000 per year. FWP has not collected independent data, resorts to speculation and has not produced any models or other analysis to counter tribal results.

2) Biologists in all the agencies involved in this process, as well as other research, support implementing one of the reasonable alternatives to reduce the over-abundant lake trout population. FWP’s managers simply “believe” this and that won’t work. FWP’s efforts at Swan Lake demonstrate it can use science to inform lake trout suppression. But for some reason, they refuse to do so at Flathead Lake.

3) “Secure” to FWP means status quo, meaning you can’t fish for bull trout in the lake and river, angling for cutthroats will continue to be catch and release and bull trout will continue to be managed not by the State of Montana, but by the federal government because the fish will continue to be listed as threatened.

4) At the same time FWP bemoans the fact that fewer new anglers are coming on board, resulting in fewer license dollars to support department programs. FWP supports recreational fishery management at Flathead Lake that ensures it is dominated by lake trout, requiring specialized equipment and boats. Sticking with existing management on the lake means much fewer angling opportunities for the public, as evidenced by the steep decline in angler days since lake trout have exploded — from a high of 170,000 angler-days a year to 33,000 in 2011.

5) There is a reason most other biologists and nationally known fishery geneticists disagree that bull trout are “secure” in the Flathead. First, far fewer bull trout are showing up in sampling nets in the lake. Second, though the overall number of spawning redds in the North and Middle Forks combined appears to be steady — or as FWP claims “secure,” —  the North Fork population is dropping precipitously. The decline is masked by combining spawning there with that of the healthier Middle Fork.

6) There is absolutely no evidence that reducing the lake trout population as proposed in the DEIS will result in less fishing opportunity. FWP has no data to support this. Research from elsewhere indicates catch-rates for lake trout are likely to remain the same or slightly less than today. The benefit will be higher catch-rates for other species in the lake and river system.

7) Even if the most aggressive alternative in the DEIS is selected, there would still be more than 1 million lake trout in Flathead Lake. Enough to provide a good fishery and far more than recovered populations of bull trout and cutthroats.

8) FWP has no data demonstrating that current angling for lake trout represents a large part of the local economy, nor does the agency demonstrate that 1 million lake trout would result in much less angling opportunity. $20 million is misquoted as the value of the lake trout fishery. That, of course, is the value of the total Flathead fishery, including money spent angling on the Flathead River and lake. Only slightly more than half is spent on the lake, and 40% of that is not spent in pursuit of lake trout. When you include all the fishing money spent in other tributaries and lakes within the Flathead watershed, the value of the small mackinaw fishery pales in comparison. The Flathead Lake DEIS estimates that the loss to the two-county economy due to suppression would be less than 0.1% and that would likely be made up by increased river angling.

9) Columnists, a letter writer, and a recent editorial would scare you into believing that if you buy electricity from BPA you will pay for this plan. You have already paid that money. BPA sets aside mitigation funds every year for worthy projects. That money will be collected and spent regardless of whether or not it is spent on Flathead Lake. There will be no additional cost to rate payers.

10) FWP decries the estimated bycatch of bull trout resulting from netting in Flathead Lake. Bycatch is rightly a concern to be addressed and avoided, and the tribes are committed to this. The US Fish and Wildlife Service must approve and monitor the level of estimated bycatch before and during any netting on Flathead Lake. Accurate data from other regional waters where fish populations are being rebalanced by reducing lake trout show that reducing lake trout populations can be accomplished without adverse effect on native bull trout and cutthroat populations. FWP’s own data on Swan Lake has shown that bull trout can be avoided in the netting process.

“Belief” and speculation cannot take the place of thoughtful, rigorous science and sound economics in this important process to recover native fish in the Flathead. FWP needs to support this process and live up to their promises to recover native fish in the Flathead.

Learn more at http://www.flatheadtu.org/ 

CSKT response to the MFWP talking points: http://www.mackdays.com/DEIS/page75/ 

Read the DEIS at the CSKT website at http://www.flatheadlakeeis.net/ 

FVTU Comments on 2014 Regulation Changes

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Don Skaar

Fish Management Bureau Chief
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59601

Dear Don,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on proposed Montana fishing regulation changes for 2014. Flathead Valley Trout Unlimited (FVTU) consists of more than 300 Montana anglers and conservation-minded individuals interested in the conservation, protection and restoration of coldwater fisheries in Northwest Montana and we are very interested in the regulation and preservation of our coldwater fisheries.

Regarding the proposal to change the definition of westslope cutthroat/rainbow hybrids in the North Fork of the Flathead River. We support the Department in its effort to better identify and manage our native state fish. Hybridization with invasive rainbow trout is a growing problem in the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River and slowing the spread of the hybrid fish is an important strategy in conserving westslope cutthroat trout. We consider this a direct threat to the genetic integrity of the native fish population. We continue to support the ongoing rainbow/hybrid suppression effort on the Mainstem Flathead and important tributaries.

We can support changing the regulation regarding the identification of rainbow/cutthroat hybrids on a portion of the North Fork for a limited time as long as monitoring is performed rigorously and often. Creel census personnel should be well trained in identification and regular genetic sampling should be performed. Angler education is crucial and should be readily available. If data from the monitoring indicates that any damage is occurring to the native fish population, procedures should be in place to quickly remove the new regulation.

Little Bitterroot Lake-  FVTU also supports the removal of bag limits for smallmouth and largemouth bass in Little Bitterroot Lake to protect the important resident kokanee salmon population and to lessen the chance of the invasive fish spreading to other parts of the watershed.

With respect to regulation modifications not specified in the proposed changes for 2014, FVTU would also like to propose these other changes;

1) Within the Flathead River sloughs, it is still permissible for anglers to catch and keep up to 3 cutthroat trout with no size limit. Westslope cutthroat trout remain a “species of concern” in Montana and are rightly protected. Within the rest of the river system fishing for westslope cutthroat trout is catch-and-release due to threats to the species. As most of these sloughs are connected to the rest of the river system for, at least part of the year, and the cutthroat population is part of the larger overall basin population, we believe that the same regulations that protect our state fish in the rest of the system should apply to the sloughs. Therefore, we would like to see the regulation changed to catch-and-release for cutthroats in the sloughs as it is in the river.

2)  In the Stillwater drainage that includes the Whitefish River and Whitefish Lake it is still permissible for anglers to catch and keep westslope cutthroat.  With the completion of restoration of the Whitefish River from the Whitefish Lake outlet to the Highway 93 culverts, our members have been reporting increased catch of westslope cutthroat, some of which appear to be migratory from the Stillwater and Flathead Rivers downstream.  Therefore, we would like to see the regulation changed to catch-and-release for cutthroat in the Stillwater River drainage as it is in the Flathead River, to which the Stillwater system connects.

3) Lower Flathead River Sloughs-  We continue to advocate for removing protections for northern pike in the lower river and sloughs above Flathead Lake. These fish were illegally introduced many years ago and continue to take a heavy toll on our native fish as they move between the river system and Flathead Lake. We feel that the illegal pike population should not be protected as game fish through seasons and bag limits. We would like to see the removal of at least all bag limits on northern pike in the Flathead and seasonal restriction should be lifted where feasible.

4) Flathead River System-  Finally, FVTU continues to promote the imposition of single barbless hooks and no bait restrictions for the upper areas of the Flathead River system. We continue to see declines in our native bull trout and westslope trout populations even though fishing is limited and we feel that whatever can be done to alleviate hooking mortality within these populations would better support the ultimate goal of conserving and restoring our native fish populations.

Thank you for taking our comments.

Larry Timchak
President
Flathead Valley Trout Unlimited

Fish The Fish 2013

fishthefishA new community event called Fish the Fish will offer an afternoon of unique activities and entertainment to the public, including a fly fishing expo, vintage travel trailer tour, fly fishing casting competition and a raffle for significant prizes benefiting breast cancer survivors. Fish the Fish will be held September 14, 2013 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Whitefish Mountain Resort base lodge. Fish the Fish will have local and national expo exhibitors including Simms, Sage, Scott, Lakestream Outfitters, Spotted Bear Ranch, Flathead Valley Trout Unlimited and more. A Spotted Bear Ranch fly fishing trip valued at $2,300 is the raffle grand prize. Visitors can also try their luck at a fly fishing casting competition hosted by Lakestream Outfitters.

Proceeds from the event will send local breast cancer survivors to a Casting for Recovery fly fishing retreat in West Glacier. Casting for Recovery is a national nonprofit that provides opportunities for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a natural setting and learn the sport of fly fishing. This is the third year that the local program is putting on a retreat.

Direct donations to Casting for Recovery can be made at http://www.FishtheFish2013.com. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, Lakestream Outfitters, or at the Fish the Fish event. Tickets are $10 each or three for $20. Participants need not be present to win. Fish the Fish will have craft beer from Ninkasi Brewing Company as well as a cookout with hamburgers and hotdogs offered by Whitefish Mountain Resort. Full event details can be found at www.FishtheFish2013.com.

Fish the Fish is organized by the Whitefish Knotty Nymphs, a local group of women who are passionate about fly fishing and fundraising for meaningful causes in the Flathead. For more information about Casting for Recovery visit www.castingforrecovery.org.

Help Protect the Smith River

Action Alert from Montana Trout Unlimited

SmithRiverTell Montana DEQ TODAY to require an EIS and better data for a proposed mining exploration in the Sheep Creek drainage of the Smith River.

The Canadian mining company Tintina Alaska, Inc., wants to excavate a mile-long exploration tunnel near Sheep Creek, an important spawning tributary of the Smith River, to evaluate an ore body for a proposed copper mine. The problem is the ore body contains sulfides, so the discharge from the tunnel and the waste rock the project will generate has a good probability of creating acid-mine drainage – a nightmare impact that can be impossible to rectify and which has polluted trout streams and groundwater all over Montana.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a draft environmental analysis (EA) that purports to assess the impacts and “mitigate” for them. But it’s a flawed document. It omits key data and relies on future, still-to-be-determined actions and monitoring that would occur only after a permit is issued for the exploration.

Write DEQ today and remind the agency how special the Smith River and its fishery are. Tell DEQ in your own words why it can’t risk spoiling this gem by the type of mining that has ruined streams and groundwater across Montana.

Tell DEQ to:

  • Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal and disclose exactly what the quality of discharge will be at the project, and what treatment will be in place to deal with pollution.
  • Require the company to have a modern water-treatment system in place before the tunnel is constructed and keep it going after the project is complete as long as pollution is present.
  • Collect complete baseline information on fish and wildlife in the area and describe in detail how they’ll be protected.
  • Detail in the EIS the specifics of the reclamation bond it will require for the project so the public can comment on its adequacy. DEQ has a long record of approving inadequate bonds, requiring taxpayers to pay for cleaning up mining messes.
  • Deny an exploration permit if the exploration work would result in treatment of polluted discharges in perpetuity.

Tell DEQ to protect the Smith River. It’s the only one we have!

Send comments by Aug. 26 to:

hrolfes@mt.gov

OR

Herb Rolfes, DEQ, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620

For questions, contact Mark Aagenes at mark@montanatu.org

Stay Informed! Get involved! Check montanatu.org for important updates.

Thank you for doing your part to make a difference.

Where is the outcry?

Lou Kis with a nice Flathead bull trout

Lou Kis with a nice Flathead bull trout

There seems to be more than a little agitation against the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for seeking Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) mitigation funding to assist with their legitimate management of Flathead Lake and River fisheries. First of all, this is NOT federal tax money. The money comes from a permanent fund established by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat affected by the 31 dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The money comes from electric utilities that buy power from BPA. Montana and FWP regularly receive millions of dollars from this fund to mitigate damage caused by the development of Libby and Hungry Horse Dams.

BPA, through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to restore and improve fish habitat, fund hatchery programs, etc. Some of that money is spent in Montana. This obligated money will be collected and spent based on a scientific review of proposed projects by an Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP). The panel makes recommendations on which projects are worthy of funding based simply on the science, not politics. This pot of rate-payer money will be spent based on the merit of proposed projects. Whether or not it is spent in Montana is up to the ISRP and BPA, not the federal government.

Montana FWP is currently restoring native fish habitat in the upper Coal Creek drainage in the North Fork  and has recently proposed obtaining a conservation easement on 189 acres at the north end of Flathead Lake to expand the North Shore Wildlife Management Area. Both programs would use mitigation funding obtained from BPA. I have heard no outcry regarding funding of either project.

I hear no objection to the State of Montana receiving and spending millions of dollars of BPA-funded mitigation money for worthy wildlife proposals, but when the Tribes apply for needed funds through the same program, a hue and cry arises that they are trying to steal our tax money to kill our fish and enrich themselves. To me, there seems to be just a smattering of sour grapes to these arguments and maybe just a twinge of xenophobia.