Mussel Incident Response Team
Montana has created a Mussel Incident Response Team, which is giving weekly briefings on Thursdays at 1pm Mountain Time to update interested stakeholders on the status of their rapid response to dreissenid mussels. If you are interested in receiving daily briefings and updates, please email MusselResponse@mt.gov.
If you prefer not to receive the daily briefings and updates, you can visit this Montana website, where the “Latest Mussel Detection News” is posted on a regular basis.
Click here to read the official Emergency FWP Order
Public comment sought on Quiet Waters Initiative
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will hold public comment meetings around the state in January on proposed rules to limit motorized water craft use on some of the state’s water bodies. The proposed rules address a petition, known as the Quiet Waters Initiative, submitted to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission this past spring by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. The petition states Montana has experienced advanced motorized technology on its waterways, which has potentially opened up waters previously thought to be unusable by motorized water craft. At its regular May meeting, the Commission initiated rulemaking on the petition, stating, in part, the Commission should consider being proactive instead of reactive to the changes in recreation on Montana’s waterways to avoid conflicts and protect traditional and safe recreational uses.
For a complete list of waters considered in the petition, please go online to fwp.mt.gov. Click on the News tab and then click again on “Rules” under “Recent Public Notices.”
Public hearings on the Quiet Waters Petition will be held at the following times and locations:
• Jan. 3 at the FWP Region 1 office, 490 N. Meridian Road, Kalispell at 6 p.m.
• Jan. 4 at the FWP Region 2 office, 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula at 6 p.m.
• Jan. 5 at the FWP Region 3 office, 1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozemen at 6 p.m.
• Jan. 9 at the FWP Region 5 office, 2300 Lake Elmo Drive, Billings at 6 p.m.
• Jan. 11 at the FWP Region 4 office, 4600 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls at 6 p.m.
• Jan. 11 at the FWP headquarters office, 1420 E. 6th Ave., Helena at 6 p.m.
The department will make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities who wish to participate in this rulemaking process or need an alternative accessible format of this notice. If you require an accommodation, contact the department no later than December 9, 2016, to advise us of the nature of the accommodation that you need. Please contact Kaedy Gangstad, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; telephone (406) 444-4594; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concerned persons may submit their data, views, or arguments either orally or in writing at the hearing. Written data, views, or arguments may also be submitted to: Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Attn: Quiet Waters Petition, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail QuietWaters@mt.gov, and must be received no later than January 13, 2017.
Governor issues emergency declaration for invasive mussels
Tiber Reservoir have tested positive for the larvae of aquatic invasive mussels and Water samples from Canyone Ferry and the Missouri River and being sampled as suspect bodies of water as well.
This is the third suspect water body found this year in Montana. The samples from Tiber Reservoir were later confirmed to be positive for aquatic invasive mussel larvae. The Canyon Ferry Reservoir sample is still suspect, pending the results of further testing, which is underway. The suspect samples from the Missouri River are also undergoing more testing.
“We are continuing to test water samples collected from the Missouri River basin, which is our area of focus now,” said Eileen Ryce, FWP fisheries division administrator.
A suspect sample is one where the mussel larva present appears to be an aquatic invasive mussel, but further verification and testing is needed to confirm the results are positive.
Test results last week from of a water sample collected in the Milk River downstream of Nelson Reservoir came back inconclusive for aquatic invasive mussel larvae.
The test showed the presence of the shell of a larva, which indicates the larva had dried out at some point and died, said Ryce.
The results are inconclusive because “there’s no way of knowing if the dried larval shell came from the river itself or was brought in already dead by an outside source,” Ryce said.
In an ongoing effort to search for adult mussels, FWP, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the U.S Bureau of Reclamation, all partners on the Governor’s Invasive Species Advisory Council, last week used mussel-sniffing dogs at both Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoir to search for further indications of the aquatic invasive mussels.
At Tiber, the dogs searched the shoreline and docks that were removed from the water for the winter season. The dogs got a potential positive hit at one point on the shoreline and at one dock. However, no adults were found.
At Canyon Ferry, the dogs searched several docks still in the water and got a potential hit on a dock at the Silos and on a boat and a section of riprap at Yacht Basin Marina. These hits prompted FWP staff to snorkel around docks at both locations looking for adult mussels. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service divers trained in searching for adult mussels continued the search this week, Monday at Yacht Basin and Tuesday at the Silos. No adult mussels were found.
Response efforts for both Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs are being coordinated by an interagency response team that includes staff from FWP, DNRC, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Montana Invasive Species Advisory Council.
For many years FWP has conducted regular testing of the state’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs for aquatic invasive mussels. Water samples from Fresno, Holter, and Hauser reservoirs have come back negative, as have samples from Lake Frances and the Marias River. Testing at Fort Peck Reservoir and the entire Missouri River system is ongoing. Once sample processing is complete in these close proximity areas, it will continue with water bodies west of the Continental Divide.
FWP conducts AIS tests on 141 water bodies across the state each year. This includes more than 540 samples, which are processed at the agency laboratory in Helena.
“We’ve developed an extensive testing protocol in Montana because of the importance of early detection,” Ryce said. “The fact we’ve discovered these mussel larvae at very low densities in Tiber and Canyon Ferry indicates this testing protocol is proving effective.”
Additionally, through the spring and summer FWP operates 17 aquatic invasive species check stations around Montana. New this year was a law requiring recreationists with water craft to stop at any check station they encountered. More than 37,000 water craft came through FWP’s check stations. Of the more than 37,000 water craft inspected, seven were found positive for aquatic invasive mussels.
Central to Montana’s AIS monitoring and education efforts is its Clean, Drain and Dry message.
“We need all of our water users to understand and follow the Clean Drain Dry message and procedures,” Ryce said. “The success we have at preventing any spread or introduction of AIS in Montana depends on it.”
For the latest information on this issue, please look online at fwp.mt.gov. For facts about aquatic invasive mussels and other invasive species, please look at the MISAC website at dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/cardd/MISAC.
For more information about Invasive mussels in our Montana waters - go to http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/cardd/MISAC
Lakes and Fishing Reports
Fishing Report -
Fishing Report - December
Fort Peck and Canyon Ferry Spawning Report 2016
The 2016 walleye egg-taking operation is officially underway in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Despite the early ice-out, water surface temperatures have still been relatively cool. Cold fronts have occasionally moved through the area and nighttime lows have still been hovering in the mid-20’s. This has caused temperatures to decrease slightly over the last few days. From Tuesday through Friday, water surface temperatures have gradually decreased from 43 to 40 degrees while checking our trap nets.
Due to the cooler temperatures, walleye spawning activity has been slow. We have captured a decent number of male walleye in a few of the trap nets, which is a typical pattern early on during the walleye spawn, and an occasional green female walleye. However, northern pike spawning activity seems to be going strong with ripe female pike being captured on a fairly consistently basis. In fact, we collected approximately 1.2 million northern pike eggs today. Once these eggs hatch, the fry and fingerlings will be used to meet stocking requests for several water other water bodies in the state of Montana.
The extended forecast looks promising with daytime temperatures climbing into the upper 60’s. Let’s hope this spurs an increase in walleye spawning activity!
The warm spell we experienced over the weekend quickly took a turn for the worse in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Daytime highs that were once hovering near 70 over the weekend quickly dropped into the mid-30’s today due to a cold front that moved through the area. The cold front brought in some breezy conditions followed by periods of snow. This caused water surface temperatures to drop from 50 degrees on Monday to the low 40’s today. As you might imagine, this will likely throw a wrench into the walleye spawning activity.
The good news is we were able to capture a few green (not releasing eggs) and ripe (releasing eggs) female walleye over the weekend before the cold spell hit. This allowed us to hold two small egg-takes since the last update. On Saturday we collected approximately 1.7 million eggs, and today we managed to collect another 1.4 million bringing the total to 3.1 million eggs. This puts us on the boards for the 2016 season, but we still have a way to go to reach our goal. Let’s hope the weather starts to cooperate so the walleye will start cruising the shorelines once again in an attempt to spawn.
Photo 1: Sorting green female walleye in the holding pens
Photo 2: Fish culturist Ryan Lott collecting eggs from a green female walleye
Photo 3: Snow falling over the holding pens in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir
Weather conditions have been interesting in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Temperatures have managed to warm since the last update, but the wind has been a bit breezy the past few days. The cold front wasn’t as severe as it could have been. Water surface temperatures have warmed from 43 to 48 degrees. This has triggered a few more walleye to start cruising the shorelines once again. Good numbers of males have been captured as well as a few more green and ripe female walleye.
The slight increase in walleye numbers have allowed us to hold two more small egg-takes since the last update. We collected 3.2 million eggs on Friday and another 4.9 million on Saturday. This will bring the total to approximately 11 million eggs. The weather forecast looks promising for the next few days so let’s hope the walleye spawning activity continues.
Photo: Trap net with walleye
Photo: Tyler Nemetz and Butch Shockley with a nice green female walleye
The weather in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir continues to cooperate for the time being. The stable and warm weather has allowed water surface temperatures to average around 50 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. These temperatures have been very conducive for walleye spawning activity as indicated by the increased numbers of walleye collected in our trap nets.
We’ve still been collecting good numbers of male walleye, but we’ve seen a large increase in both green and ripe female walleye throughout our trap nets. In fact, some of our better trap nets have allowed us to collect upwards of 20 female walleye from a single trap net! It appears that we are nearing the peak in walleye spawning activity because we are now capturing equal numbers of green and ripe female walleye.
With large numbers of female walleye captured, we’ve been able to hold several large egg-takes since the last update. Three more egg collection efforts have resulted in the 16 million more eggs. This should bring the total to approximately 26 million eggs thus far. It looks like some cool and rainy weather will be headed this direction so hopefully it doesn’t throw too much of a wrench into the spawning operation.
Photo: Roy Arves with a dandy walleye captured from one of the trap nets
Photo: Gabe Peck with a green female walleye being transferred to the spawning barge
The cool, rainy weather we experienced last Friday has passed, but it didn’t pass without leaving its mark in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Fortunately, water surface temperatures didn't decrease as much as expected. Water surface temperatures dropped from 50 degrees to 46-48 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. This is good news as water temperatures in the upper 40's are still within the desired range for walleye spawning activity.
Numbers of walleye captured throughout our trap netting locations have remained stable, but the proportion of ripe to green female walleye has shifted. Numbers of ripe females collected have increased while numbers of green females have started to decrease. We have also captured a few spent (released eggs) female walleye over the last few days indicating we may be on the downhill slide. This is not surprising since walleye spawning activity has been occurring for nearly three weeks now.
The continued collection of ripe female walleye captured in trap nets, as well as green females that ripened in the holding pens, have allowed us to hold four more egg-takes since the last update. Each egg-take has allowed to collect approximately 7 million eggs each time. This has doubled the amount of eggs collected since the last update bringing the total to approximately 56 million eggs. We are approaching the goal of 60 million eggs and will likely start to wrap the operation up towards the end of this week. Stay tuned for one last update of the season.
Photo: Holding tank with a big load of female walleye headed back to the spawning barge and holding pens.
Photo: Cooper Axtman with the big catch of the day!
Well, the 2016 walleye egg collection effort has concluded in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Weather conditions remained favorable last week causing water surface temperatures to warm into the low 50’s throughout the trap netting locations. This allowed walleye spawning activity to continue, but there are some definite signs the walleye spawn is winding down.
Numbers of female walleye captured have gradually decreased with a majority of the females collected being ripe. Very few green female walleye have been captured and more spent females have made their appearance in the trap nets. In fact, even some of the ripe female walleye collected weren’t as plump with eggs as they were a week ago indicating they too have released a few of their eggs.
Due to the good number of ripe females captured in the trap nets, we managed to hold three more egg-takes since the last update. These egg-takes allowed us to collect approximately 7 million eggs each time. That brings the grand total to 79 million eggs for the season! This surpassed the 60 million goal, but additional eggs were collected in the event of poor hatching success.
Last, but especially not least, I’d like to thank all the volunteers who contributed to an extremely successful season. It was great to see lots of new and familiar faces, talk about the Fort Peck fishery, and see some truly remarkable fish. Best of luck to everyone in 2016 wherever you choose to wet a line!
Photo: Judy Becker with healthy walleye on a drizzly day.
Photo: Tom Becker also with a nice walleye on a drizzly day.
Photo: Xander Pugh with one of the last female walleye captured of the season.
Photo (courtesy of BJ Kemp): Jeff Remus and JoAnn Elrod with one of the larger walleye captured during the trap netting and egg collection effort.
FWP staff kicked off the 2016 Canyon Ferry Reservoir walleye spawning survey on the south end of the reservoir on April 4th. The current weather pattern has only allowed traps to fish for a handful of days, but a few nice days late last week had walleye cruising the shoreline. As per usual, most of the fish we’ve seen thus far have been males, both mature and immature, but about 10% of the total catch has been green (unripe) females. FWP staff has only handled one ripe female so far during the survey, which is typical this early in the survey.
Snow and inclement weather are projected to wreak havoc on the area for the next 2-3 days, so it’s safe to say that optimal walleye spawning temperatures (48-52 degrees F) likely won’t be reached until the current weather system moves out. The peak of the walleye spawn in Canyon Ferry is typically around April 20th each year and the current forecast looks to be lining up with that timeframe once again in 2016.
FWP staff is also concurrently monitoring walleye movements in the area, using radio tagged fish, to better understand how walleye move between Canyon Ferry Reservoir and the Missouri River upstream to Toston Dam. In 2015, walleye migrated into the river, were relocated throughout the entire 23+ miles of river to Toston Dam, and then out-migrated to the reservoir in the fall of 2015. Some of those same walleye, along with recently implanted walleye, have been relocated in the river, specifically between the river delta and the HWY 12 Bridge (near Townsend), within the last week. So, if you’re interested in fishing in the river for walleye, I’d say wait until the current fowl weather subsides, then get after it because they’re headed your way.
Please call 495-3263 if you’re interested in volunteering for a day out on the water or just want to talk fishing!
Canyon Ferry Wrap-up
The 2016 Canyon Ferry Reservoir walleye spawning survey on the south end of the reservoir is officially over. Survey results indicate that the peak of the spawn may have occurred before FWP staff launched their first trap on April 4th. Seventy four total walleye were sampled from April 4th to April 25th and the majority of the walleye were captured this spring between April 4th and 11th. Captured walleye averaged 13.7-inches and 0.9-pounds. Eleven percent of the captured walleye were females and ripe females were only captured during the first 7 days of the survey. Optimal walleye spawning temperatures (48-52 degrees F) were reached on multiple occasions during the survey, but FWP staff was starting to see fewer total fish toward mid-April. When traps start to capture primarily immature males it typically indicates that the spawning period is ending. Again, survey results indicate that the spawn may have occurred up to a month earlier than normal.
FWP staff also continues to monitor walleye in the Missouri River upstream of Canyon Ferry Reservoir via electrofishing. Weekly electrofishing surveys have resulted in capturing 84 walleye that averaged 17.2-inches and 1.51-pounds. Eleven percent of the walleye surveyed in the river were females. Walleye started moving into the river in early April and have only been surveyed thus far between Crimson Bluffs and the river delta. However, the majority of the walleye surveyed this spring in the river have been between the HWY 12 Bridge and Cottonwood Boat Ramp on the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area.
Please contact me if you have any questions about either of the surveys or if you happen to catch a tagged fish. Tag returns from anglers are one of the most valuable fisheries management tools that FWP has, so get out there and catch some fish!
Photo Caption: FWP Fisheries Technician Chris Hurley holds up a large female walleye surveyed during the 2016 Canyon Ferry Reservoir walleye spawning survey.
Monthly Fishing Tips
Artificial SOft Tails...The New Normal for Walleye FishingBy Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz
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