Lets just settle on agreeing that lake trout aren't baby seals. Soft fluffy white fur and big watery eyes will trump a cold slimy fish any day of the week, but still...the wholesale slaughter of a trout seems antithetical to the mantra that we catch and release types chant each time we head to the river. We will pass someone who is leaving with a stringer full of trout and we assess them as if they are pariah; an unclean blight on the angling world.
|In foreground right is Todd Koel, the man with the trout killing plan.|
Here is the situation. At some point lake trout arrived in Yellowstone Lake. I say "at some point" because no one is really 100% certain when it happened. Yellowstone Lake is a Cutthroat lake, end of story. The population of this amazing body of water has changed dramatically in recent years, and it has become quite frightening on more than a fishing level. This issue literally effects every creature in the massive Yellowstone that has Cutts as a food source.
Try wrapping your mind around this statistic. In or around 1978, 70,000 Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout were recorded in Clear Creek. In 2008, the number had dwindled to less than 500. You read that right...500. Keep in mind that we are just talking about one creek, God only knows how many feed into Yellowstone Lake. You start running the numbers and it doesn't take a lot of thought to determine that Yellowstone is in trouble.
HOW IT IS DONE
We were blessed with the opportunity to travel out onto Yellowstone Lake and take part in the removal of the Lakers. After a coffee and a danish at the boat dock, we gathered round and Todd Koel gave us the rundown thus far.
|Lake Trout removal tally sheet|
There are two primary methods that are being used in the eradication process. Gill netting and trap nets, and our merry band of anglers, bloggers, and industry folk embarked on what would become one whale of an adventure.
Gill netting is not pretty. It is a messy, smelly, methodical task that takes a strong constitution and a certain degree of speed to do the job well. So, imagine my surprise when we pulled up to the gill netting boat, and a young blonde coed climbed out and welcomed us aboard. I envisioned a crew of bearded and somewhat scruffy fishermen using foul language, smoking filterless cigarettes and drinking coffee from an old rusty percolator. This boat had two gentlemen who were very polite and soft spoken and a crew of nothing but girls.
With my personal stereotypes completely shattered we put our hands to work. Gill netting was the focus of this boat, and though it wasn't Deadliest Catch it was pretty intense at first. The best way to describe gill netting would be to envision a massive underwater spiders web. These nets are dropped or "soaked" for several hours and basically the fish entrap themselves within the holes of the net, struggle, tangle, and die. Then comes the dirty work. The net is retrieved and it is the task of the deck hands to extricate the fish from the nets. I knew this was gonna be messy when the captain of the boat handed out blue rubber gloves.
|Bringing in the Gill Net is done by attaching it to the round metal piece seen in the center of the photo. It turns and pulls the net into the boat.|
|The net is then pulled conveyor like down a long steel table where people are stationed to remove the fish.|
|Most of the fish are a real mess, and on this day, several had really wrapped themselves up in the netting.|
|As the net is cleared of its catch, it is straightened and then loaded into a bucket with a back and forth or S shape so that it is easier to resoak at a later date.|
|As gross as it may sound, often getting these small Lakers out of the net was much like trying to push a banana through a straw.|
|Trust me, these ladies were real troopers. When you can smile while squeezing dead fish for ten hours a day, it is a safe assumption that you love what you do.|
|If I am not mistaken, my friend Rebecca is holding a "popper" in this photo.|
|The fish, once removed from the nets are cut, counted and the process starts all over again.|
*Photos of the Blogger Tour 2012 by Rebecca Garlock, Steve Zakur, Chris Hunt, Marc Payne