- Bull Trout
Bull trout are a member of the family know as char. Their name originates from their large head and mouth. They are distinguished from trout and salmon by their absence of teeth in the roof of the mouth and the presence of light spots on a dark background on their body. Once native throughout the Pacific Northwest they are now found primarily in upper tributary streams and a few lakes and reservoirs. They spawn in the Fall in cool water that is below 48 degrees Fahrenheit and need steams with cold, unpolluted water, and clean gravel to spawn. Lake bull trout have been known to weigh more than 20 pounds.
The factors that have led to the plight of the bull trout are many. Around the turn of the 20th century game manager began introducing brook trout and other non-native fish to Northwest steams. The predatory nature of the bull trout took a toll on the introduced fish and it was decided to eradicate the bull trout. Commercial net fishing, bounties, and even poisoning campaigns were initiated and some continued up to 1990. Dams and irrigation systems placed on rivers and streams greatly hindering the migratory bull trout. Mining and agriculture silted up streams eliminating clean spawning gravel. Some isolated populations are not large enough for adequate genetic diversity. Problems with climate change warming stream water and causing reduced snow melt are worsening conditions for the bull trout.
Now federal and state programs are trying to conserve and propagate the bull trout population. Their efforts include stream and habitat protection and restoration, reduction of siltation, and modifying land use to improve stream quality. Strong commitment by private citizens, industry, and federal, state, and tribal agencies are all needed to protect the bull trout.