Aquatic Invasive Species, Bucket Biology, lake trout suppression, public access, and family fishing are among the topics that have ruled Jim Vashro’s last thirty years with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Vashro is retiring as the Region One Fisheries Manager for F-W-P with the end of this year. Region One includes Flathead Lake as well as numerous other lakes, rivers and streams in northwest Montana. Vashro said Flathead Lake was just one of more than one hundred lakes that had Mysis shrimp introduced, but arguably saw the most profound change.
“The Flathead Lake of 1981 no longer exists. The ecology has been totally flipped upside down, and everything we’re doing is treating symptoms. Until we really treat the problem, which is Mysis, we’re not going to get back to the old Flathead Lake,” Vashro said.
During Vashro’s tenure the state and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes signed a co-management plan for Flathead Lake in 2000. The plan has since expired, and both sides have said they’re interested in renewing a co-management agreement.
The sticking point has been lake trout suppression.
The Tribes are prepping to move forward with more aggressive efforts, including netting. The state said this might do more harm than good right now.
Vashro’s successor will be stepping into a situation where lake trout management continues to dominate the agenda, re-forging an agreement with the Tribes, re-establishing native fisheries against threats from illegal introductions and aquatic invasive species, all on waters that many people in northwest Montana are passionate about.
“You have to not take it personal. You have to know that they care deeply and there’s some common ground there. I’ve always said outreach is just critical, and communication. We need to know what fishermen are thinking, we need to be out there talking to the folks, and because they spend so much time on the water, they have insights that we may not- that we don’t get,” Vashro said.
Vashro said he intends to stay connected with these issues. In the future, he’ll just be on the other side of the microphone during public comment.