Montana Bull Trout Spawning Numbers Down on Many Rivers, Blackfoot River a Big Exception
A recent survey of the bull trout spawn in Western Montana shows wide variation from one body of water to another. Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 2 Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel says most bull trout populations in the Missoula area suffered from summer drought.
"We saw lower counts in the Missoula area waters like the Clark Fork," Saffel said. "We were kind of expecting lower numbers because with low water, the fish have trouble getting access to their usual spawning areas and then they might have predation because they are bigger fish in shallower water and are easier for animals to catch."
Saffel says that the Blackfoot River had some surprisingly good results, but that it appears to be an outlier.
"For some waters like Rattlesnake Creek and some of the middle Clark Fork tributaries the results were low, or really low," Saffel said. "We always get a little nervous, wondering if there is enough resiliency in the population to bounce back. It was very encouraging for the Blackfoot River, to have numbers that remained high, I think that it can be attributed to all of the work that has been done in that drainage."
Saffel says he watches the mountains every day hoping for snowfall and that fisheries managers have their fingers crossed that next summer won’t be as dry as this summer was.