Yellowstone National Park Fish
management policy has changed dramatically over the years since
Yellowstone National Park was first established.
From commercial fishing Yellowstone Lake, to running hatcheries,
to catch-and-release, Yellowstone has seen policy change as knowledge
has accumulated and views have changed over time (Gresswell and
Liss 1995). To read more
about the history of Yellowstone’s Fishing Policy, click
of the newest policies was issued by the Superintendent of Yellowstone,
Michael Finley, on February 9, 2001.
Under this new policy, all native sport fish species in
Yellowstone are placed under catch-and-release-only fishing rules.
This includes the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, the westslope cutthroat,
the Snake River finespotted cutthroat, the Montana grayling, and
the mountain whitefish. Most
of the park’s native fishes have been included under catch-and-release-only
rules since the early 1970’s.
The native species affected by the policy change are the
Yellowstone cutthroat trout and the mountain whitefish.
The Park Service recognizes the hugely adverse impact that
visitors and invasive, introduced organisms have on the fishery
and the 2001 policy changes are an attempt “to help repair the
tremendous damage being done to our native species” (Finley 2001).
Aquatic Resources division of the park has been in place since
1998. Previously this
area had been overseen by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but
because of a reordering of USFWS objectives and of the park superintendent’s
desire for the park to manage its own resource, this changed in
1996. The objectives of
fisheries management in the park are as follows.
Fisheries Management Objectives:
and interpret the fish populations and other aquatic components
functioning elements of the park ecosystem.
2. Preserve and, where necessary, restore native species and aquatic
3. Provide anglers with a high-quality opportunity to fish for wild
trout in natural
accomplish these goals, the Aquatic Resources division runs a
long-term program to understand the ecology of Yellowstone Lake
and its associated cutthroat trout population.
It monitors angling levels.
It conducts backcountry stream and lake surveys for baseline
chemical, physical, and biological characteristics.
Also, in addition to monitoring angling, non-consumptive
uses of the fish such as fish watching are also monitored.
1973, Yellowstone has used a Volunteer Angler Report card attached
to a mandatory park fishing permit to provide data on angler use,
exploitation levels, and the effectiveness of and compliance with
park fishing regulations. The
park modifies these fishing regulations based in part on feedback
from these cards. Regulations
are species specific and vary from place to place within the park. For many years the park fishing permits were
issued free of charge, but in 1995 the park began charging a fee
for the privilege of angling.
Proceeds from the fee support the park’s program of aquatic
of the aquatic resources programs that proceeds from fishing permits
go to support is the park’s gill netting operations.
When Lake Trout were confirmed as inhabiting Yellowstone
Lake in 1994, the Park Service started collecting information
about all of the different aspects of the problem. In February of 1995, a workshop
and information exchange was held in Gardiner, Montana. During this workshop, different possible ways
to control Lake Trout were discussed.
These control measures ranged from using divers and underwater,
remotely operated vehicles to kill Lake Trout, to using chemical
toxicants, to stocking sterile male Lake Trout in the lake, to
introducing sterile sea lampreys into the lake (Mcintyre 1995).
Of these possible remedies, gill netting was decided to
be the most effective at removing large numbers of Lake Trout
from Yellowstone Lake. Since 1998, the Aquatic Resources division
of the park has been running gillnetting operations. These operations are paid for out of funds generated by park fishing
Fish Management Policy Outside The Park
In the state of Wyoming, fisheries
are managed by the Wyoming Game
and Fish Department. Under Wyoming Statute 23-1-103 the department
was created and charged with providing “an adequate and flexible
system for the control, propagation, management, protection and
regulation of all Wyoming wildlife." The Department is the
only entity of state government directly charged with managing
Wyoming's wildlife resources. The department runs 11 hatcheries and monitors
wild fish populations for diseases.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department does not discourage the catching
of Yellowstone Cutthroat. Cutthroat
are managed as a game fish and the state fishing regulations state that
anglers may catch up to six per day.
In fact, the department encourages anglers to catch Yellowstone
Cutthroat. If an angler
participates in the department’s “Cutt-Slam” program and catches
all four cutthroat subspecies, the angler will be awarded a certificate
of achievement by the agency. The “Cutt-Slam” web page even
points anglers toward Yellowstone Lake to fish.