Lake trout suppression program churns on despite pandemic

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Even a global pandemic couldn’t derail a battle that has raged for 25 years underwater within Yellowstone National Park. Since 1995 National Park Service crews and contracted commercial fishing boats have harvested more than 3.35 million non-native lake trout from Yellowstone Lake through gillnetting efforts in an attempt to eradicate the invasive species that threaten the native cutthroat trout.

Since the first lake trout appeared in Yellowstone Lake, caught by an angler in July of 1994, extensive NPS efforts have slowly decreased their numbers within the lake, but according to head of the Native Fish Conservation Program Dr. Todd Koel, the fight is far from over.

Lake trout thrive in Yellowstone Lake mainly because they have no natural predators. “They have great survival [rates] because there is nothing coming along to eat them,” Koel said. “…They’ve got all these advantages that we’re trying to change.”

To date, over $20 million has been spent trying to eliminate the lake trout and restore the cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake, according to a Yellowstone National Park press release. Funding for all aspects of the program comes from NPS, Yellowstone’s nonprofit partner Yellowstone Forever and Wyoming Trout Unlimited among others, according to Koel.

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