Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Roger Dey
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch 

Local Browns Lake fish kill observations gainsay FWP estimates


Roger Dey

A pair of Rainbow trout cruise through the shallow water along the shoreline at the Browns Lake Fishing Access.

The long winter and lingering ice on area lakes didn't result in significant fish mortality, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, but local reports indicate a significant number of dead fish have been observed at Browns Lake.

According to a May 4 FWP news release, Region 2 fisheries biologists conducted surveys on Browns Lake, Harpers Lake and Lake Upsata and estimated fish mortality to be less than one percent.

FWP reported that shoreline surveys showed 30 to 40 dead trout at Browns Lake and 20 to 25 at Harper's lake, but none were observed at Lake Upsata.

"Winter conditions were severe and similar to years past where we experienced fish kills on area lakes," said Ladd Knotek, Region 2 fisheries management biologist. Knoteck said the fisheries are in good shape.

Local reports last week were a bit less optimistic. Ovando's Blackfoot Angler's Facebook page indicated that they'd received reports that the winter kill appeared to be higher than normal, with the large number of dead fish at Browns Lake drawing in up to 20 eagles Saturday to take advantage of the easy meals.

The large contingent of eagles didn't make an appearance during the middle of the day Sunday, but a couple dead trout could be observed from the Browns' Lake fishing access area. However, sizable live Rainbows could also be seen cruising the shoreline in the area as well.

Roger Dey

Warm, clear weather brought people out to Brown's Lake Sunday, May 6.

Quite a few anglers who took advantage of the warm sunny weather Sunday to try their luck at the lake, fishing both from shore or from boats and float tubes.

One fisherman, who had been out on the lake using a float tube, said he didn't see many dead fish, but felt that there seemed to be fewer fish than normal.

A second angler who was trying his luck fly-fishing in chest deep water on the east side of the lake reported seeing several dead fish, but said people seemed nevertheless to be having a decent amount of luck.

According to FWP, winter fish kills typically result from progressive oxygen depletion under the ice. As the Blackfoot Angler explained it, the thick snow and ice prevented sunlight from penetrating, which in turn prevented the algae and grasses in the lake from creating the oxygen, causing the larger fish to asphyxiate and die.


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