Bucket Biologists on Soda Butte Creek

September 2, 2023 By: Spencer Durrant


Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie

When Soda Butte Creek was treated to remove nonnative brook trout a few years ago, many anglers breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that another milestone for cutthroat trout conservation had been reached.

Earlier this year, however, brook trout were rediscovered in Soda Butte Creek, which meant fisheries managers had to once again poison the river and remove them. Brook trout are highly competitive fish, and will out-eat cutthroat in many Western rivers and streams. It’s hard for cutthroat to coexist with brook trout, which is why they’re removed to help restore cutthroat trout habitat.

According to an article from the Montana Free Press, fisheries managers suspect that a bucket biologist – a term for people who stock fish into rivers because they think they know better than biologists – put the brook trout in Soda Butte Creek. They don’t have any hard evidence, but it’s a logical explanation.

The good news is that the brook trout were confined to a small section of the creek, which has already been treated to kill any remaining nonnative fish.