Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), Region One, has completed an environmental assessment (EA) for a proposal to conduct a 6-year effort to investigate suppressing illegally introduced walleye in Noxon Reservoir using a variety of sampling gear and techniques. Based on the level of comment and questions, FWP will prepare a revised draft EA before any major action is taken and will continue routine fisheries sampling.
A draft EA was released for 30 days of public comment on February 28, 2013, through March 29, 2013. The public comment was extended for an additional 21 days through April 19, 2013. A public meeting was held in Thompson Falls, Montana, on March 19, 2013. The EA addressed the illegal introduction of the walleye and pertinent FWP policies, potential impacts of walleye on the multi-agency Native Salmonid Restoration Plan, potential impacts on popular recreational fisheries, and the sudden increase in walleye abundance, as well as factors that determine walleye year class strength. A total of 431 comments were received, with 359 opposed and 72 in support of the project, plus 3 form letters and 7 petitions. Substantive issues raised include the origin of the walleye, potential bycatch of nontarget species in suppression efforts, funding availability, walleye removal techniques, and the economic impacts of both allowing walleye to establish in the lower Clark Fork and the consequences of removal attempts.
Based on the numerous questions, comments, and information requests received throughout the EA process, a revised draft EA will be prepared to address these issues and provide additional information. FWP will strive in the revised draft EA to format and assemble the information in a manner that will invite public reading and understanding of the primary issues and consequences.
To gain more information, continued fisheries sampling efforts will include spring electrofishing, short-term gillnetting with a variety of mesh sizes, seining, and hoop, trammel, fyke, and Merwin traps. Most captured walleye will be tagged and released to measure angler exploitation. Gravid females will be stripped of eggs to measure fecundity. Some walleye will be sacrificed to study food habits and to validate aging techniques. Sacrificed walleye will be donated to local food banks if they are within food consumption limits. Results of ongoing sampling will be incorporated into the draft EA.
Copies of theInvestigation of Suppression of Walleye in Noxon Rapids Reservoir Decision Notice are available at the FWP office, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell; the FWP Field Office, 601 N Columbia Street, Thompson Falls; Montana State Library, 1515 E 6th Ave., Helena; FWP State Headquarters, 1420 E 6th Avenue, Helena; Thompson Falls Library, 911 Main Street, Thompson Falls; and the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov under Public Notices.