Big Sky Roundup

Fish and Wildlife Commission approves rule for smallmouth bass caught on the Yellowstone River

By: - April 26, 2022 3:56 pm

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved changes to smallmouth bass regulations at its April 19 meeting to require anglers to kill and report any smallmouth bass caught in the Yellowstone River from the boundary with Yellowstone National Park to Springdale Bridge Fishing Access Site.

The regulation change also applies to the entire Shields River. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff proposed the change after an angler reported catching a smallmouth bass on Feb. 19 while fishing on the Gardner River at its confluence with the Yellowstone River, just outside of Yellowstone National Park, according to a press release from the department.

“One of FWP’s primary management goals in this area is to protect native Yellowstone cutthroat trout, which spawn in the tributaries and upper reaches of the Yellowstone River. An established population of invasive smallmouth bass could occupy the same areas, preying on and displacing native trout and other fish,” the department said in the release.

The release said smallmouth bass have slowly been expanding up the Yellowstone River, but the fish caught on the Gardner River marks the farthest upstream extent of smallmouth bass. The nearest documented catch of smallmouth bass outside of the Feb. 19 catch was nearly 34 miles downstream near Emigrant. It is unknown if this fish swam upriver or was illegally introduced into the river.

Smallmouth bass are not native to this area, and according to the release, an established population could pose threats to native fish and others in the upper Yellowstone River and its tributaries.

In the U.S., there are more than 250 invasive aquatic species from other continents and more than 450 non-native aquatic species that have moved outside their natural range, according to the National Park Service. And in Yellowstone’s waters, the smallmouth bass is one of at least eight aquatic invasive species that exist. The additional species include four other fish, two mollusks and one parasite that causes whirling disease in cutthroat trout and other species.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. Keith is no longer a reporter with the Daily Montanan.