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Walleye distribution

This map, reproduced in a book on walleye, is the basis for angler Dale Gilbert's contention that walleye are native to Montana. 

Walleye are not native to Montana.

That's the conclusion Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks came to after conferring with experts from around the country, conducting extensive literature research and based on the best information available, the agency announced.

FWP will host a meeting on Feb. 28 to discuss its findings at the Montana Association of Counties building, 2715 Skyway Drive in Helena at 6 p.m.

The question about the walleye's status in Montana arose at the December meeting of the Fish and Wildlife Commission. At the meeting, walleye advocates presented a map from peer-reviewed literature that showed the native range for walleye included all of Montana east of the Continental Divide. 

At the Feb. 28 meeting, FWP will discuss the information regarding walleye status that was presented at the December commission meeting and present information that FWP used to determine that a status change is not needed.

FWP manages for native and nonnative sport fish species to provide ample angling opportunities. However, in some cases, the agency emphasizes native species management while still providing sport fishing opportunities.

Some Montana native fish species receive special conservation status and are identified as Species of Concern. These native fish are considered at risk due to declining population trends, threats to habitat or restricted distribution. Pallid sturgeon, Kootenai River white sturgeon, sauger, paddlefish and Yellowstone and westslope cutthroat trout fall into this category.

While nonnative fish receive no special conservation status they comprise the bulk of sport fishing opportunities in Montana. Some of the state’s iconic species in terms of angling include rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, and walleye — all of which are nonnative fish. FWP actively manages for these species to provide angling opportunity throughout the state.