30 May 2007

Lakes are Opening Up

With the unusually warm weather this spring, our mountain lakes are opening up a little early. Some years, I have found ice-out in early July. The fish feed greedily at ice-out, but it's also the time of the first big mosquitoe hatches. I've never quite appreciated the woodsy song of the little blood suckers buzzing around my ears, as Thoreau said he did.

Many of our lakes are stocked (air dropped) periodically with fingerling trout, but some of them also have good naturally reproducing populations. Virtually all of our alpine lakes were originally devoid of fish, though they must have had plenty of other native species. It is unfortunate that some native species in these lakes must have been displaced or impacted by the great trout planting movement of 50 to 100 years ago. But for those of us who like to hike in the mountains and eat fresh trout, the lakes do provide a wonderful experience.

Here are a few Yellowstone (?) cutthroat trout from a nearby mountain lake. Mabye they are westslope cutts, but for some reason the lakes were usually planted with Yellowstones. Beautiful fish, they'll be spawning at the lake inlet in a few weeks or so.

And it's nice to have a patch of snow near the trailhead as a place to stash a beer for the drive home:

Last week's snowstorm dropped some much needed moisture, and we are well above average for the year. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Big Hole River flows (which is dewatered even in average precipitation years, of late). At any rate, it was a "warm" snow and did not seem to harm the apple blossoms on Butte's few but hardy trees:

And the on-average warm spring has the bitterroots ready to bloom:

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