The Whitefish Project

for understudied salmonids

Montana is home to two different species of native whitefish, the Mountain Whitefish, commonly seen in rivers and lakes across the state, and the Pygmy Whitefish, only found in a handful of deep, clear lakes in northwestern Montana. Both are extremely understudied. Recent disease outbreaks in Yellowstone River populations of Mountain Whitefish, and anecdotal evidence elsewhere, suggests that this species may be in decline. Pygmy Whitefish are so elusive that even their distribution within the state is not well described.

Pygmy Whitefish captured in Big Salmon Lake (Bob Marshall Wilderness) – August 2020

The Whitefish Project is a multi-facteted program of inquiry with the following goals:

Distell Fish Fatmeter
  • Use historical catch data to determine if there is an overall trend in catch-rates of Mountain Whitefish
  • Refine the distribution of Pygmy Whitefish in Montana and determine their habitat requirements
  • Predict the consequences of Lake Trout management in Flathead Lake for Pygmy Whitefish
  • Develop Mountain Whitefish calibrations for the Distell fatmeter- a handheld tool that can measure a fish’s body fat content

Project Partners

Publications & Reports

Clancy, N.G., J. Deraleau, and S.L. Bourret. In prep. Distribution and trends of the native whitefishes of Montana. For submission to Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.