Conservation

The tiger king of alpine lakes

The stocking report needed to be incorrect. A typo, a coding downside – one thing cheap defined what I learn.

Cottonwood Reservoir – MUSKIE TIGER

Donkey Lake – MUSKIE TIGER

Bullock Reservoir – MUSKIE TIGER

Why on the planet would the Utah Division of Wildlife Assets (DWR) inventory tiger muskie into these lakes?

Tiger muskie have lengthy been widespread right here in Utah. My fishing buddy “Mysis” Mike has a photograph album – an actual one, with printed photographs and every thing – filled with photographs of him with tiger muskie. One reveals him holding a 40-ish inch specimen subsequent to a toddler-aged niece. The fish was so long as the niece was tall.

Mysis Mike caught that from Pineview Reservoir, a stocked fishery simply off the busy Wasatch Entrance in northern Utah. Pineview is house to a hodgepodge of fish and loads of weedy, tangled shallows. Excellent habitat for an ambush predator like a tiger muskie to gap up in.

For these of you continue to questioning, a tiger muskie is a cross between a northern pike and a muskellunge. They’re sterile, like most hybrid fish, and develop very massive, in a short time. Since they’re such voracious predators, fisheries managers use them to assist management bait and tough fish populations.

Take Gross Reservoir for instance. It’s a 440-acre lake in Boulder County, Colorado, that was as soon as recognized most for its outrageous inhabitants of white suckers.

“Ten years in the past we had 78 % sucker biomass within the reservoir,” stated Colorado Parks and Wildlife Senior Aquatic Biologist Jeff Spohn, in an article for Colorado Outdoors. “We began stocking tiger muskies and brown trout and that has gone all the way down to round 35 %.”

Tiger muskies are simpler to handle than brown trout, although, as a result of they’re naturally sterile. Their incapability to breed, coupled with their fully-piscivorous food regimen, makes them very best instruments for biologists to make use of when seeking to scale back populations of invasive nongame fish.

Which is why the stocking report from the DWR confused me a lot. Not one of the fisheries listed had issues with nongame fish populations. In reality, all three are strong trout lakes, and a minimum of one has the potential to provide trophy-sized brookies.

Two of the lakes are in Utah’s Northeast Area, the place my buddy Bryan Englebert is a fisheries biologist with the DWR. I known as him as much as get the thin on what tiger muskie have been doing in two of his lakes.

The muskies, Bryan informed me, have been serving the identical goal in these lakes that they do in most others. Controlling fish populations. Solely in these lakes, the fish being managed are brook trout.

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The Idaho Division of Fish and Sport was the primary to strive utilizing tiger muskie to regulate brook trout populations. Bryan pushed to make use of them in Utah after listening to about their success in Idaho.

A lot of that success is detailed in Quantity 35, Situation 4 of the North American Journal of Fisheries Administration. I’m certain everybody has a subscription to that scintillating journal, proper?

The first few lines of the abstract are telling in why Idaho fisheries biologists considered utilizing tiger muskie to assist with brook trout populations:

“In western North America, nonnative Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis in alpine lakes threaten the persistence of native trout and infrequently provide restricted sport fishing alternative as they’re vulnerable to stunting. Stocking tiger muskellunge . . . that are reproductively sterile, could also be an choice to eradicate Brook Trout in some alpine lakes.”

I reckon any angler right here within the Rockies can rattle off an inventory of a dozen ponds filled with stunted brookies at a second’s discover. Alpine lakes filled with small brookies are about as synonymous with alpine fishing within the West as allow are to the Florida Keys.

Brook trout are prolific reproductive fish and notoriously troublesome to do away with. As soon as they present up in a drainage, they connect themselves to the panorama higher than virtually every other trout. When you’ve so many fish competing for the small quantity of meals accessible in alpine settings, it’s no shock that all fish stunt, and sport fishing suffers.

In an effort to reverse that pattern, the biologists in Idaho picked 17 brook trout lakes to make use of as research samples for his or her new concept. 13 of the lakes have been stocked with tiger muskie, whereas 4 have been left alone as management teams.

For 5 years, the biologists sampled brook trout populations in all 17 lakes utilizing gillnets. In lakes the place tiger muskie have been stocked, they’d catch 2.3 brook trout per web. Earlier than the introduction of tiger muskie, the catch charge was 23.1 brook trout per web.

Curiously sufficient, brook trout catch charges plummeted within the management lakes, too. However that’s indicative of the boom-and-bust nature of alpine fisheries.

What’s most intriguing, although, is that in lakes the place tiger muskie have been stocked, “the proportion of brook trout bigger than 250mm within the catch elevated considerably in years 1, 2, and 4 after stocking (in contrast with pre-stocking information) whereas no improve occurred in management lakes,” per the Idaho research.

250 mm is just below 10 inches lengthy. Stocking tiger muskie in these alpine brook trout lakes clearly decreased the variety of brook trout accessible, however considerably elevated their measurement.

That end result led to Utah making an attempt the administration methodology, and this 12 months needs to be one the place we begin to see some main outcomes. I’ve some hook-and-line (learn: fly fishing) surveys deliberate with Bryan later this summer season.

The end result of the research from Idaho makes organic sense. Scale back the variety of animals reliant on a meals supply, and also you improve the dimensions and well being of the animals remaining. On this case, fewer brookies preventing one another for scuds, leeches, and chironomids meant larger brook trout general. The tiger muskie prey on the brook trout, protecting their prolific spawning in test. For the reason that tiger muskie are sterile, it’s comparatively easy to maintain an excellent variety of bigger brook trout alive.

And may you think about the fun of hooking an enormous tiger muskie in an alpine setting? In some cirque lake excessive within the Rockies?

That’s one thing I need to expertise. This 12 months, hopefully, I’ll get the possibility.

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