The second series of questions that Game and Fish had to answer was how many walleye are in Buffalo Bill, how many are being harvested by anglers, and what would it take in terms of removal efforts to keep the walleye population from expanding. Beginning in 2016, in collaboration with researchers from Montana State University, Game and Fish began investigating the feasibility of suppressing walleye in Buffalo Bill Reservoir in order to sustain the trout fishery.
To estimate abundance of walleye and angler exploitation rates, Game and Fish tagged approximately 500 walleye in the spring of 2016 with reward tags. “We determined that the Buffalo Bill Reservoir walleye population was smaller than we anticipated, with only a few thousand sexually mature fish in the entire reservoir. We also determined that anglers harvested approximately twenty percent of the tagged fish which was a bit surprising given the fairly low abundance of walleye in the Reservoir.” Burckhardt said.
“Now that we had these key pieces of information, the final question was how many walleye could we remove with the tools we have available,” Burckhardt said. In the spring of 2017, when the walleye were congregating during spawning, Game and Fish used electrofishing and gillnetting to remove as many walleye as possible to determine if it is feasible to keep the walleye population low enough to prevent it from growing to the point that it may affect the Buffalo Bill Reservoir trout fishery. Over the course of three weeks a little over 800 walleye were removed from Buffalo Bill. While the field work is completed, the analysis of the data will continue through this winter.
A brief history: Stocking Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Buffalo Bill Reservoir was constructed in 1910 at the confluence of two major tributaries, the North and South Fork Shoshone Rivers.
A variety of trout were stocked soon after the dam’s closure including rainbow trout, lake trout, and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
Rainbow trout were last stocked in 1949 lake trout in 1955.
From 1955 through 1995, Yellowstone cutthroat trout were stocked.
All stocking was discontinued in 1995 when it was determined that stocked fish were not substantially contributing to the fishery and that natural reproducing “wild” trout could support the fishery.
Story and photos by Tara Hodges, Jason Burckhardt and Sam Hochalther, Cody Region. For more Cody Regional news, visit the Cody Regional Website.
In top photo: A Buffalo Bill Reservoir cutbow
(Wyoming Game and Fish (307) 777-4600)
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