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Flathead Bull Trout Population Survey

MISSOULA -

Recent survey results show encouraging numbers for the Flathead's bull trout population.

FWP biologist conducted spawning surveys in eight North and Middle Fork Flathead River tributaries. They counted about 500 redds, or spawning nests, this year indicating a stable bull trout population.

In the past 15 years, which is about three generations of bull trout, surveys average about 434 redds. This year's estimate of 500 redds is 66 percent above the minimum secure level of 300 redds calculated for the Flathead Lake bull trout population under the Flathead Lake and River Fisheries Co-Management Plan. Based on the average number of eggs per female, this translates to several million eggs deposited in the gravels of North and Middle Fork Flathead tributaries.

Mature bull trout migrate upstream from Flathead Lake in the summer, spawn in September, and then return to Flathead Lake in October after spawning.  The young fish hatch and then live in the tributaries from 1-3 years before migrating downstream to Flathead Lake to grow to adults and complete the life cycle. Biologists estimate that about half the adult bull trout in Flathead Lake spawn each year.

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