Yellowstone National Park has been battling invasive species for decades, but one recent discovery has left wildlife managers worried about the future of the Yellowstone River watershed: a smallmouth bass. The specific fish was landed in the Gardner River just north of the park and has sparked a flurry of action from local authorities to work to prevent the species from making its way into Yellowstone NP.
It is worthy of note that smallmouth has existed in the Gardner River system for years alongside the extant native and stocked trout. But what worries biologists most is the smallmouth’s ability to quickly colonize and establish themselves in higher and higher reaches of the river systems they invade.
Check out the press release below from the Park Service regarding the catch.
From Yellowstone National Park Lead Fisheries Biologist Todd Koel:
“Smallmouth bass are an invasive predatory species that will threaten our wild and native trout populations if they become established in the upper Yellowstone River. Since anglers are highly effective at suppressing invasive fish in waters where they coexist with native species such as cutthroat trout, they will be required to kill and report any smallmouth bass caught in Yellowstone National Park when the fishing season opens Memorial Day weekend. Additionally, Yellowstone National Park and USGS biologists will be sampling the Gardner and Yellowstone rivers, upstream of where the invasive smallmouth bass was caught. Over the next few weeks, biologists will monitor these rivers closely to gauge the possible extent of the invasion. Our goal is to protect native fish populations and natural ecosystems. We will do everything in our power to prevent the establishment of smallmouth bass in the park and prevent them from preying on and displacing trout and other native fish.”
CORRECTION: We previously titled this article “First Smallmouth Caught in Yellowstone River” when the smallmouth was actually landed in the Gardner River, just a few miles north of the Park. It was brought to our attention that the invasive species have been present in the Yellowstone River system for years and have “coexisted” with the river’s trout since. Despite trout and smallmouth “coexisting” in the same system, the impacts of the invasive species have been measured and anticipated by Park officials as the smallmouth populations creep closer to the Park’s boundaries.
For a more in-depth analysis of the invasive species’ previous, current, and forecasted impacts on the Yellowstone River and its native species, please read the article “Invasive Smallmouth Bass Caught in Gardner River” from Fly Fisherman Magazine.