Radio tagged lake trout to be used as one method to bring their demise in Yellowstone Lake

Finding where the mackinaw spawn via transmitter should help zero in on them-

We recently ran a story on the need for more money for Yellowstone Park to get ahead in their battle against the non-native, illegally planted lake trout that have all but wiped out cutthroat trout from Yellowstone Lake.  One of the most promising methods is likely to be the insertion of radio transmitters into the macklinaw to pinpoint their spawning beds.

Just as radio collars for mammals are expensive, so are they for fish. Deployment of them and then the destruction of the spawning beds would be one of the uses of the money.

The Jackson Hole News and Guide discusses this and other methods of gaining up upper hand over the unwanted fish.







  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    Lake trout also live for a very long time. A couple I used to work with when I worked for the IDFG liked to fish Payette Lake in McCall. Once she caught a big lake trout with a tag so they looked up the number in the office files and found that when it was originally tagged it was already fairly large but also, it had been tagged decades earlier. It was a really old fish. It could have been forty years old.

    I’ve read that they have been known to reach 60 years and some speculate 100 years.

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    It looks like the research industry is going to make out like bandits from the Lake Trout in Yellowstone just like they did when Wolves were brought in. Makes me wonder who introduced the Lake Trout into Yellowstone Lake.

    1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
      Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

      Larry –
      If the Yellowstone Lake situation – lake trout and impacts to the Yellowstone Lake ecosystem – how would you manage the situation differently?

    2. WM Avatar

      Does anyone know the details of who introduced lake trout to Yellowstone Lake?

      Years ago I fished a couple of lakes in the Wind River range that had them. I only knew they were there because my fishing partner caught one about 6-7 pounds, which we had for dinner, that evening. I don’t think they are only in a couple lakes.

      At that time, there was a pretty good balance with other species (Eastern Brook, cutthroat hybrids), but not knowing when they were introduced the balance might have changed. Don’t know whether that was a conscious decision of WY or not to stock in the Winds (Bridger Teton Wilderness would have suggested they did not, but who knows), or somebody brought them in.

      1. WM Avatar

        Sorry, “….I think they are ONLY in a couple of lakes…” there.

      2. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue


        Here’s one story

        After collapse of Lake Michigan LT population, LT from Yellowstone were brought back to Lake Michigan

  3. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    I guess this post fits here as well.

    Although the GL Lake Trout population was over fished in the 1940′s, the culprit that almost erased the Lake Trout were sea lamprey.…nu=research_invasive_fish

    And I’m sure as effective as the lamprey were, you don’t want them out west.

  4. Ken Cole Avatar

    Lake trout had been in Heart Lake for years before they showed up in Yellowstone Lake. Heart Lake, I think, was barren before lake trout were stocked there. Some people thearorize that lake trout may have gotten to Yellowstone Lake during the 1988 fire when a helicopter dipped water out of Heart Lake and dropped it on the fire and into a stream connected to the lake. A bucket biologist could have done it too.

    Heart Lake is in the Snake River drainage across the divide but close by. I think that the Park Service introduced them there long ago. There are also some in Jackson Lake.

    I don’t know if it has ever been determined what the source of the lake trout was.

  5. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    I’ve been interested in the source too. There have been many theories and tales told. The summer right out of high school, I worked at Bridge Bay Marina doing some boat rental and some fishing guiding and was the primary guide for a project called “Remote Shores” where I rowed small groups of 2 to 4 down into the de-motorized zone of the lake for 3 day camping-fishing trips. I stopped by the marina 27 years later to see what had changed and what hadn’t and recognized one of the guys (“boat-dockers” we were called) that I had worked with 27 years earlier, still at it! I received his grim report on the state of fishing, pointed at the Great Lakes gillnetter with NPS logo parked at the end of the dock and asked what on earth had happened? He said he had been guiding a well-known nature photographer in the 1980s who had picked up a bucket of young lake trout from the Jackson Hole Hatchery for on-board aquarium use in a cutthroat documentary and he conjectured they must have gone in the lake afterward. Anyway, that’s one more story to add to fire drops, etc.

    However, a study has identified Lewis Lake as the source. In addition to Heart Lake, mentioned by Ken, lake trout were planted many years ago in the Shoshone-Lewis Lake system which were barren of native cutthroats, being above a falls. Lewis Lake had good fishing for lake trout at times and is just down the road from West Thumb. It appears that, over a period of years starting in the late-1980s, somebody who regularly fished Lewis Lake drove up the road and released some of their catch in Yellowstone Lake. Looking back at all the potential vectors, it once more demonstrates what a time bomb exotics can be when in the general geographic area of sensitive native species and ecosystems. All it took was perhaps one person deciding Yellowstone Lake was a big, cold lake and therefore should have lake trout to put a whole ecosystem in peril and destroy a resource that rivaled Pacific salmon (in my memory of places like grouse and chipmunk Creeks during the spawning run) and to dig into tax-payers pockets, potentially forever.

  6. Doryfun Avatar

    At the expense of getting a shower of “ologist” over my head, I often wonder where the expansion boundaries exist that determine when one species becomes an exotic or invasive? Every creature is a native to the planet and starts out somewhere. All things native move outward to somewhere, and nature is in a constant state of flux. Fish carry nutrients, birds carry seeds, deer carry burrs,men carry buckets.

    Natural selection always functions and will continue to change the range and dynamics of all species. Man is not separate from that entire process. The world view of the dominant culture, man over nature, as opposed to “native” first nation peoples, and man only as a part of the whole – all things connected,leads to a very different way of treating the environment.

    For thousands of years before the dominionist arrived, salmon ran up the Columbia system. (and much of the west/east) Once dams clogged the arteries, the impact and disruption was tremendous.

    Yes, all people are native to the planet. But the worldviews by different cultures have consequences. Those harboring beliefs that support manifest destiny related doctrines, often cause the most dis-array.

    As long as the dominionist try to control everything to the max, managing,re-managing,exterminating,introducing, reintroducing, and manipulating ecosystem services to fit our every needs, we will continue spending millions,and squabbling over the various species. Wolves, carp, quagga mussels, chukars, bass, pheasant, …..

    Carp taste pretty good,and I had fun catching them as a kid. Not sure how Lake Trout taste, but I’m sure someone somewhere likes it…and probably enjoys catching them.

    Maybe we Americans whom need to turn down the dial of extravagant consumption, might also tone back our pious need to dictate our way through the landscape as lord over nature.

    Perhaps we should re-examine our standards of stewardship and at what point it spills over into lordship. Some peoples got along with salmon for thousands of years. Other peoples were too busy trying to dominate other peoples, and continue to have the same toxic affair with subjugating creatures in nature today. A troubled environment is the out of whack price we pay for being master manipulators and re-creators.

    Societies that develop corporations (ultimate dominionist) and then try to give them status as a human, have a questionable future.

    Food for thought.

    1. WM Avatar

      I’ll agree with that. The problem is, it is tough to make some urban dude in LA understand that for him/her to have a big friggn’ 50 inch TV, and air conditioning throughout a 3,500 house, or go to some huge indoor arena complex for a b-ball game or rock concert, some salmon on the Columbia can’t complete their life cycle, because of the hydro dams that generate the electricity to support that lifestyle. The fact is they just don’t give a shit, and never will.

  7. Larry Zuckerman Avatar

    I wonder if a “fishing contest” involving SCUBA divers armed with spear guns might help – anyone know what the clarity of Yellowstone Lake is like and diving conditions are where the lake trout congregate. I am sure they move vertically seasonally in the lake and other lake trout, come into gravelly shores and edges of islands to spawn in the fall. In some lakes, they spawn even at depths of 40 feet among rocks and cobble in the lake! They don’t build redds or fish egg nests like stream-spawning salmonids, but rather are broad-cast spawners. This makes controlling them much harder – no egg-laden nests to destroy.

    They, like other lacustrine salmonids, follow not only the food supplies, but mostly water temperatures, preferring 50 F. So, in spring and fall, they are near the surface, but in the heat of the summer, they go deep, seeking colder water than surface water.

    I sure hope no one gets the screwy idea of introducing a parasite, like the lamprey, disease, or another predator – this type of fisheries work never really works out.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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