Illegally introduced walleyes discovered in Upper Thompson Lake

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A walleye is shown in this file photo. The non-native fish has been found in Lincoln County. (File photo)

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists found two walleyes in Upper Thompson Lake last week during a routine fisheries survey. This is the first documented detection of the predacious non-native fish in Lincoln County and is an illegal introduction.

FWP staff set a pair of nets Oct. 8 in the upper section of Upper Thompson Lake, a popular fishery that is part of the Thompson Chain of Lakes west of Marion along U.S. Highway 2. Each net caught a single walleye. Both fish were female and measured 18 and 21 inches, respectively.

FWP will begin an initial investigation, including follow-up surveys to understand the potential walleye distribution and population size.

Biologists collected samples from the two fish for additional research. An analysis will be performed to determine whether the captured walleyes were born in the lake.

Anglers cannot move any live fish from the water in which the fish are caught. Illegal introductions can have significantly negative impacts on lakes and rivers. They can often lead to lost recreational fishing opportunities, as well as collapsing fisheries and altering food webs.

Anyone with possible information on the walleyes in Upper Thompson Lake are encouraged to call 1-800-TIP MONT. Callers do not need to identify themselves and may be eligible for a cash reward. Anglers should report additional sightings of walleye to FWP at (406) 752-5501.

Moving live fish from one body of water to another is a crime.

There are important reasons for this law:

Introduced fish may compete with native or already established species.

Introduced fish may behave differently in a new habitat -- they may not improve and are likely to harm the fishery.

Introduced fish may hybridize (interbreed) with established species.

Introduced fish may carry and spread new diseases and parasites.

Introduced fish may actually alter the existing habitat.

Illegal introductions can raise management costs by requiring planting more or larger fish or even chemical rehabilitation to maintain or restore the fishery. The result is less fishing opportunity and higher costs for anglers.

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