Yellowstone: The Natives Are Winning

Yellowstone cutthroat trout: a native species worth saving

by Randy Scholfield

You gotta love Ted Williams—he tells it like it is. In a recent column in Fly Rod and Reel, the fearless, take-no-prisoners conservation writer champions the “most ambitious native fish recovery project ever attempted”--the ongoing campaign by Trout Unlimited, the National Park Service and others to get rid of invasive lake trout and restore the once-teeming population of native cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake.

At the same time, Ted torches the half-baked arguments and outright b.s. circulating in some quarters about lake trout eradication efforts.

The goal of TU and partners is to restore one of the most significant native trout strongholds in the world.  That lake population of native Yellowstone cutthroat, like so many other things in the park, was a natural marvel—and provided fantastic fishing for generations of park visitors, too.

Then, in 1994, lake trout were discovered in Yellowstone Lake, likely introduced by an angler. In coming years, the lake trout population exploded, and the predatory fish caused the cutthroat population to plummet. 

Ted documents the challenges and remarkable successes to date in restoring native cutthroats. It's been a long, complex effort to bring the cutts back. But it's working. We’re turning the corner.

He also ground-truths the stubbornly ill-informed arguments of a small but vocal group of opponents of the recovery effort, pulling them back to verifiable facts and science.

Stay tuned—some great things are happening at Yellowstone Lake.  The native trout are winning—and so are anglers. TU is proud to be part of this historic conservation effort.

Randy Scholfield is TU's director of communications for the Southwest region.


said on Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Great post, Randy!

said on Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Great job, Randy.

One of the most rewarding parts of this project is seeing the return of the cutthroats. For the past two years the number of young cutthroats that are surviving is truly a sign of much better things to come (previously they would have been eaten by the lake trout). The naysayers have said that the lake trout and the cutthroats can co-exist in this system. History has shown that to be wrong. While the population of lake trout was growing, the juvenile cutthroats didn't have a chance. Now that the adult lake trout population is declining (estimated decline from 2012 to 2013 of 15-28% with an even bigger decline expected this year), the cutthroat number are on a rebound.

said on Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Well done! There Are no cutties anywhere quite like the yellowsone river and lake cutthroats. They have a personality all their own.


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