Case Studies in Fisheries Conservation and Management: Applied Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Case 11: To Stock or Not to Stock: That is the Question—for High Elevation Wilderness Lakes

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874189.ch11

Fisheries biologists today are facing changes in societal views on use of wilderness areas, sport fisheries, and consumptive fisheries (Pister 2001). This case study will provide you with a realistic (i.e., actual) example of resource managers who were faced with tough decisions in the face of changing societal views. Wyoming biologists who manage wilderness lakes in that state are challenged by the variety of opinions that various users (and non-users!) express on appropriate management strategies.

High-elevation lakes in the Rocky Mountains often had no native fish communities, but over the years, many species of trout (Salmonidae) have been stocked to provide sport fisheries. Eight Wyoming wilderness areas (see one such area in Figure 11.1) were created by the Wilderness Act of 1964— “a place where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.” Generally speaking, these are considered roadless areas, with no mechanical vehicles allowed. In Wyoming, these lands have 1,202 lakes suitable for trout. As of 2003, 724 lakes contained trout populations, with some supported by natural reproduction and others supported by ongoing stocking programs; 478 lakes were fishless (could support trout, but had never been stocked).

Cutthroat trout (Figure 11.2) are native to most of the drainages in Wyoming (Figure 11.3). Other trouts, such as brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout also currently are present in Wyoming, but are not native (i.e., they have been introduced).