FWP considers reopening portions of Yellowstone, tributaries

By: 
Liz Kearney

Reopening sections of the Yellowstone River along with some or all of its tributaries will be on the agenda of a state fish and game phone meeting Thursday. 

Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet via conference call at noon. 

The status of the river closure and which stretches may be reopened, including tributaries, will be considered, am FWP news release said.

“We’re going to have conversations about the situation,” FWP spokeswoman Andrea Jones said Wednesday. “We’re continuing to monitor the situation. There could be more lab results later today.” 

The conference call will be streamed live online and also at FWP region headquarters around the state. No public comment will be taken. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials continue to monitor the Yellowstone River following its closure Aug. 19 from Gardiner to near Laurel due to a microscopic parasite killing a large number of mountain whitefish. 

Live as well as dead and dying fish continue to be delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Bozeman Fish Health Center, Jones said. 

To date FWP staff has counted more than 4,000 dead whitefish and small numbers of other species including rainbow trout, Yellowstone cutthroat, longnose suckers, sculpin and longnose dace. 

FWP has confirmed the fish kill as far upstream as near Gardiner to  Grey Bear Fishing Access Site, west of Big Timber — about 100 river miles.

Meanwhile, citizens have continued to express concerns about a controlled fish kill conducted in and around Yellowstone National Park on Soda Butte Creek near Cooke City. 

Fisheries biologists with several agencies, including FWP and YNMP, were scheduled last week to begin removing non-native brook trout from 28 miles of streams northeast of and within Yellowstone National Park to enhance the viability of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, according to a Yellowstone news release. 

After using electrofishing equipment to capture native Yellowstone cutthroat trout and moving them temporarily to nearby tributaries, the fish poison rotenone was introduced to kill the remaining non-native brook trout. 

Travis Horton, an FWP fisheries manager said at a meeting last week that rotenone degrades in sunlight and is not a factor in the death of the whitefish. The Soda Butte project is about 43 river miles from the FWP closure on the Yellowstone River. 

Rotenone in extremely high concentrations could have some effects on animals other than fish. However, in the concentrations used on Soda Butte Creek, only those animals that breathe with gills will feel any effect, an FWP release stated. 

 There’s more information about the Soda Butte Creek cutthroat restoration project at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/newsReleases/fishAndWildlife/nr_0860.html.

-----

Liz Kearney may be reached at lkearney@livent.net.