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The Return

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I got out of the Thorofare July 12th after an incredible trip to experience the run of Yellowstone cutthroats to the upper Yellowstone River system. This is my second year of packing into this area to observe "The Return" of the Yellowstone cutthroats. The first trip, made in 2018, was chronicled in a video accessed by the link below. Although we were probably a couple weeks late for the peak of the run this year, there were still lots of big, beautiful cutthroats in the system. In addition, on our way in, we met several groups going out and they were still beaming with their own stories of catching these beautiful fish. This second trip gave us a chance to explore some new spawning tributaries and collect much needed samples for documenting the return.

Yellowstone Lake and the surrounding watershed used to be home to around 4,000,000 of these fish and was considered the last major population of the species. It was the stronghold as it was without the normal threats (development, warming, habitat degradation, invasive species) that are found in other parts of the fish's native range. Then in 1994 lake trout were discovered in the system. These voracious predators simply ate the cutthroat population to near extirpation (90-95% decline) over the next 15 years. Suppression of the lake trout started immediately but was not successful until about 2011 in reversing the population of the lakers. It has been a very difficult battle and it isn't over, but the lake trout numbers are finally in decline and the cutthroat are coming back. It also has been very expensive with suppression costs of around $2,000,000 annually. Finally, the population of Yellowstone cutthroats is on the rise.

Wyoming Trout Unlimited is proud to be a part of this effort on Yellowstone Lake along with many, many partners. Rep Your Water has been a long time supporter of Wyoming Trout Unlimited. Their support has allowed this and many other conservation efforts to help coldwater fisheries in Wyoming. 

Thank you Rep Your Water and everyone who values our native cutthroat trout.

Dave Sweet

Yellowstone Lake Special Project Manager, WY TU

Comments on this post (4)

  • Aug 09, 2019

    Thanks for the update. I saw the film at the film tour and have been wondering about the current state of recovery. The film pointed out how the entire ecosystem is dependent on the cutthroats. This is of interest and concern to all whether you fish there often, occasionally, or not at all.

    — Joel Evans

  • Jul 29, 2019

    Dave -
    As one who absolutely loves to fish Yellowstone Lake, THANK YOU for all you are doing on this.

    But as an Angler who got the 3rd Degree from a Yellowstone Park Ranger that couldn’t tell the difference between a Lake Trout and a Yellowstone Cut … may I make a suggestion:
    How about creating an incentive that if you catch a Laker in Yellowstone Lake and show it to a Ranger, you get your Yellowstone fishing fee back? But better than that: how about if you catch 5 Lakers and show them to a Park Ranger you get a free annual pass to fish there? Maybe they could even give special awards/recognition to the Top 100 Anglers that catch Lakers? This would be such a no-brainer.

    All of these would cost the Park nothing and maybe even save them a few bucks. And I’ll bet the Angling community would be all for it. What do you think?
    - Bill

    — William Larsen

  • Jul 29, 2019

    I do believe the Yellowstone cutthroat video is one of the best fishing videos I’ve ever seen! It did my old heart good to see that such amazing progress has been made in the preservation efforts for the species. I have unbelievable memories of fishing for the Yellowstone cuts in the late 50’s early 60’s. When I first heard about the lake trout problem I had no idea that it would result in such devastation. Here is a one huge ‘THANK YOU’ to all the men and women who have been responsible for making the revival possible. I think that eliminating lakers from such a large lake is an impossible, never ending task. I will be happy to help support these efforts in the future if someone will inform me where to make direct contributions. Well done and thank you all — Roe Emery [email above]

    — Roe Emery

  • Jul 29, 2019

    I am so glad you are such great conservationists. Now on to the golden Trout of California!!!!!!

    — Len Lehman

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