With numbers of important native fish dropping to record low levels, fisheries biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are proposing to take a big step to eliminate aggressive, non-native fish in Swan Lake.

And right now the agency says the proposal is probably the best way to ensure the survival of bull trout, and native kokanee salmon in the Swan, which historically was one of the best locations for the two species.

The plan is the same approach used elsewhere in the region where lake trout have tried to take over, notably in Yellowstone Lake and Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho.

RELATED: Anglers Catch & Remove Thousands of Lake Trout in Flathead

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Scope of the problem

FWP says counts of bull trout spawning nests last year revealed the lowest counts ever seen in the Swan, which was once home to a very stable population of the big trout, and the kokanee salmon. At the same time, fish surveys have shown that lake trout have "increased considerably."

That's a problem, given how aggressive lake trout can be for habitat and food, even eating juvenile bull trout. The Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society says lake trout could be considered "native" in a handful of locations, generally "other lake trout populations in Montana are the result of legal and illegal introductions" and aren't native. That competition poses a real problem for the bull trout, which was declared an endangered species in 1988. FWP says

The plan for Swan Lake

FWP proposes using gill nets to remove the lake trout until they're "sufficiently low enough" to ensure the bull trout and kokanee can survive. That's in keeping with FWP's mandate to preserve native species.

All trout netted during the project would be killed, with those of a "suitable size" and condition donated to local food banks.

Your chance to comment

FWP has posted the proposed plan online and asks for your comments through June 28th.

Additionally, there will be two public meetings. The first will be June 4th from 4 to 6 pm at the FWP office in Kalispell and the second June 11th at 6 pm at the Swan Lake Chamber and Community Club.

Montana's 'Exotic Noncontrolled Species'

Here's a sample of some of the exotic animals that the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks consider "noncontrolled species" meaning they aren't prohibited unless it falls under Montana or Federal law. For more information about these species and other "exotic noncontrolled species" refer to the guidance from Montana Fish Wildlife, and Parks.

Gallery Credit: Ashley

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