Sullivan Lake bull trout introduction

bull trout swimming
Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

WDFW is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department on an initiative to introduce bull trout to Sullivan Lake and Harvey Creek near Metaline Falls in northeast Washington's Pend Oreille County. If it moves forward, this effort will take place over a period of four-to-eight years beginning in 2025.

Bull trout are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Establishing a population in Sullivan Lake (via translocation from tributaries of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho) would aid in recovery of the species in northeast Washington, while supporting cultural goals of the Kalispel Tribe and facilitating potential future fishery opportunities. 

A map of Sullivan Lake

Bull trout are a member of the char family. They are fall spawners and have distinctive light spots on a dark background, unlike rainbow and cutthroat trout which have dark spots on a lighter background. The head and mouth are large and they average 12-20 inches but can grow even larger. 

While individual bull trout are consistently found in the lower Pend Oreille River system, an introduction at Sullivan Lake would promote its local recovery. In 2017, the USFWS and stakeholders within the Lower Pend Oreille conducted an analysis of the feasibility of reintroduction of Bull Trout within the watershed. Sullivan Lake and its primary tributary, Harvey Creek, were identified through that analysis as the portion of the Lower Pend Oreille with the highest likelihood of establishing a Bull Trout population.

If the introduction of a self-sustaining population could provide a source population for future conservation introductions within the Pend Oreille River basin and a possible future bull trout fishery. The recovery of bull trout within the basin is identified as a key action in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s bull trout recovery plan (PDF)

Camping, hunting, boating, and other recreational activities currently allowed by the U.S. Forest Service and other public entities would not change as a result of the introduction. Existing angling opportunities within the lake also would not change and may provide additional future fishing opportunities, though specific portions of Harvey Creek may be closed to angling seasonally, similar to bull trout management in other areas. Industrial regulations on private and public lands would remain as they currently are. 

The presentation below explains the details of this introduction proposal.