Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Montana FWP proposes sauger stocking program for Bighorn Reservoir

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has issued an environmental
assessment that calls for stocking fingerling sauger into Bighorn
Reservoir to support native populations of the fish and enhance
fishing opportunities at the north end of the lake.

FWP is seeking comment on the plan and its environmental
assessment. Comments are due by April 23. A copy of the assessment
is available on the FWP Web site at http://fwp.mt.gov and follow
the links to “recent public notices.” Comments should be e-mailed
to FWP fisheries biologist Mike Ruggles at mikeruggles@mt.gov or
mailed to him at FWP Region 5 Headquarters, 2300 Lake Elmo Dr.,
Billings MT 59105. A paper copy of the document is available for
review during normal business hours at the headquarters
address.

Ruggles, of Billings, said the assessment calls for taking eggs
from sauger in the Bighorn River above the reservoir in May,
raising them in FWP’s Miles City fish hatchery and releasing
500,000 of them as fingerlings back into the lake in late
summer.

In addition, the assessment calls for FWP to continue to stock
100,000 sterile walleye into the reservoir. Under the proposal, the
department would stock sauger in the lake for three years and
walleyes in the lake for six years. Subsequent studies would
determine if the program was meeting its objectives.

A unique and genetically pure strain of sauger currently populate
the lake and spawns in the Bighorn River in Wyoming, Ruggles said.
Biologists from both states have expressed concern that non-native
walleyes in the lake would compete with sauger for food and could
interbreed with the native sauger, diluting their unique genetics.
As a result, Montana FWP has planted only about 100,000 sterile
walleyes in the lake each year.

In addition to the stocking proposal, Ruggles said, biologists
considered alternatives ranging from taking no action to stocking
500,000 walleyes in addition to 500,000 sauger. The environmental
consequences of each of the alternatives are listed in the
assessment.

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