HELENA — As a journalist, I’ve always prided myself on doing extensive research on a topic before delivering you the news, and this topic I really had to spend a lot of time on. And it turns out the way to find out about the fish populations in the water bodies surrounding the capital city is by actually going fishing. That’s exactly what fisheries technicians Ashton Clinger and Chris Hurely are doing.
“So the main thing we’re concerned with is number of fish per net, and we also collect lengths, weights, other biological data to keep track of the fish growth rates but mainly number of fish per net," Hurley told MTN.
“You have to have an average to get an average and so based on historical data we take everything that we’ve had today and compare it to what we had 30 years ago and we’ll see where we fall along the line," said Clinger.
Ashton and Chris also check the stomach contents of predatory fish like walleye to see what and how much they are eating. And take a spine sample to check age. All are pieces of the biology puzzle to make sure our fish species are as healthy as possible.
”We have a stocking program in the state of Montana," Clinger said. "So a lot of our lakes and ponds get stocked with different sized rainbows and different sized fish of different species so we use these netting series to also track and make sure the fish are growing since they have left the hatchery.”
And it’s too early to get too much data from today’s catch, but at first glance, there is some good news.
“So it looked pretty standard, it looked like the normal catch we see every year, nothing alarming that jumped out," Hurley told us. "Nice to see come larger walleye. That’s what a lot of anglers are looking for. So, it’s nice to know that they are out there.”