Montana Public Radio

mountain whitefish

'Field Notes:' What's Wrong With Whitefish?

Dec 10, 2017
Mountain whitefish.
(PD)

I dipped my woven landing net into the frigid creek water and drew the fish towards my legs. It was winter and I was standing mid-calf deep in a favorite fishing spot outside Missoula. I knew the fish wasn’t a trout before I scooped it into my net.

An icy bank embraced the creek, and my breath rose before me, rhythmically billowing out my mouth and nostrils. The fish nonchalantly took one of the nymphs I had been sinking near the creek bottom, diving into the depths and pulling its weight into my fly line. I could feel its tail in the handle of my fly-rod, palpitating like an irregular heartbeat.

Scott Opitz, fisheries biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, stands near the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, MT August 25, 2017.
Nate Hegyi - Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana officials say they recently discovered dead fish in the Yellowstone River and are waiting on test results to know if they were killed by the same parasite that killed thousands of fish last year.

Fish-Killing Parasite Found In 7 More Montana Rivers

Oct 20, 2016
A fish-killing disease prompted the closure of 180 miles of the Yellowstone River and hundreds of miles of tributaries in August 2016.
Courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A parasite that caused a major die-off of mountain whitefish in the Yellowstone River has been found in seven other rivers in Montana.

Montana Re-Opens Short Stretch Of Yellowstone River

Sep 9, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana has re-opened a short stretch of the Yellowstone River to fishing, boating and other activities after officials reported not finding any more dead mountain whitefish there in the last week.

State Wildlife officials today re-opened portions of the Yellowstone River and most of its tributaries, but it kept a popular stretch of the waterway closed to all recreational activity because of a parasite that’s killed thousands of fish.

The closure has been in place since August 19.

Man fishing in the Yellowstone River.
Flickr user: Mirrur Image (CC-BY-NC)

Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order this morning announcing an invasive species emergency in Montana.

Wildlife officials closed 180 miles of the Yellowstone River just over a week ago after discovering a non-native parasite killing thousands of mountain whitefish and native trout.

Dead mountain whitefish in the Yellowstone River on August 24, 2016. Officials estimated that tens of thousands of fish have been killed by a rare parasite.
Eric Whitney

About 400 people came to the public meeting in Livingston last night about the fish kill that’s caused the closure of a 180-mile section of the Yellowstone River and hundreds of miles of its tributaries, from the boundary of Yellowstone National Park downstream to Laurel.

About 400 people came to a hall at the Park County Fairgrounds in Livingston to learn more about the Yellowstone River fish kill
Eric Whitney

About 400 people turned out at the Park County Fairgrounds in Livingston last night to get the latest on the Yellowstone River fish kill from Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks department. 

FWP staff told the crowd that there’s still a lot they don’t know about how widespread the parasite is that’s killing mostly mountain whitefish in the Yellowstone River and its tributaries, but they’re working hard and expect to know more soon.

Yellowstone River, MT
Wormwould (CC-BY-NC-2)

A microscopic parasite killing tens of thousands of fish forced state wildlife officials to close a portion of the Yellowstone River Friday morning.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks closed about 180 miles of the Yellowstone River downstream from Yellowstone National Park without a timeline for reopening. The closure could last months.

Man fishing in the Yellowstone River.
Flickr user: Mirrur Image (CC-BY-NC)

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks this morning closed an approximately 180-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River, and nearby tributaries, due to what it’s calling an “unprecedented” fish kill.

The agency estimates that tens of thousands of fish have died this week from a parasite that causes kidney disease. Most of those are mountain whitefish, but there have been reports of dead rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

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