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Natural Resources & Energy

Highly predatory fish species caught just north of Yellowstone raises alarm for native trout

smallmouth bass
Eric Engbretson
/
USFWS

A smallmouth bass was caught in the Gardner River just north of Yellowstone National Park last week. This has raised alarm in the angler community as smallmouth bass could decimate the native trout populations in the upper Yellowstone River.

Smallmouth bass are a predatory species and a highly advanced fish compared to trout.

Todd Koel, Yellowstone's lead fisheries biologist, said that unlike most fish they are able to swim upstream and they are also surface feeders. That means they'll eat anything that touches the surface of the water.

"I mean, this would be juvenile water birds or ducklings, snakes, adult frogs, mice," said Koel. "It extends the ecosystem of impacts, not only from within the water but also to the terrestrial environment around it."

Koel said that's why it is so important to make sure this species doesn't go into Yellowstone.

He said there's still time to prevent these fish from establishing a population in Yellowstone though.

"The number one thing that we do is educate the angling community that comes here every year, make sure they're aware to watch over this fish when they're fishing, especially in the rivers," he said.

Koel said anglers will be required to kill and report any smallmouth bass they catch in Yellowstone. Plus, this summer biologists will sample the Gardner and Yellowstone rivers upstream of where the smallmouth was just caught to try to find out if there are more.

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