By BERNICE KARNOP
There’s something special about dropping a line into a stream to tease a trout into taking the bait. Of course, when we were kids, we didn’t worry about the health of the fish or the stream.
Today reality tells us that both streams and fish face hidden threats. There are also institutions and people that study the health of streams and care for our native aquatic species.
One of those facilities is Bozeman Fish Technology Center (BFTC) in Bridger Canyon. Its goal is to develop “concepts, strategies and technologies for science-based conservation and management of aquatic resources.”
This is one of only six such centers within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fisheries and Habitat Conservation Program. They do research on many native-to-Montana fish that are considered sensitive, threatened, or endangered.
BFTC’s efforts provide technical assistance to federal and state agencies, universities, and private entities so they understand how to keep our fish and our fisheries healthy.
History of the Bozeman Fish Technology Center
BFTC started as the fish hatchery way back in 1892 when a handful of people found this good location at the south end of Bridger Canyon. It was ideal because it had good water from Bridger Creek along with natural springs of both cold and warm water (around 72 degrees).
The Fish Hatchery produced fish for stocking waters in Montana and the surrounding states until 1966. At that time, it became a Fish Cultural Development Center to conduct research and develop methods for improving salmonid culture.
In 1983, it was designated as a Fish Technology Center. The site is ideal for research on cold-water species like most of our native fish, and warm-water fish like the sturgeon in the Missouri River.
The biologists examine environmental factors to see what different species require to thrive and what they can tolerate and still produce healthy offspring. They work to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that endanger native fish, which may take over their habitat, compete for food, or even eat the native species themselves.
BFTC scientists inspect fish hatcheries and promote programs to prevent the spread of invasive species. These dangerous organisms hitchhike on boots, on vegetation caught on vehicles, and in water left in boats. They are hard to control and cost communities millions of dollars in restoration.
The threat of greatest concern is still loss of habitat, whether from natural or human causes, as it is for other wildlife.
Montana Outdoors Science School (MOSS), which is located on the BFTC site, does educational tours for school aged children and other groups of six or more people. Not all the buildings are open to the public because they want to keep the light and noise disturbances to a minimum for the fish they are studying. Call MOSS at 406-582-0526 about tours.
Many people champion conservation efforts for wildlife with much concern focusing on waterfowl or large mammals like bear and elk.
The important work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focuses on the health of aquatic species, so when we drop a fly or lure into a river or stream we are likely to experience the thrill of a catch!