When Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials received the above picture from a fishing expedition to Seeley Lake, there was a sense of alarm. The photograph clearly shows a smallmouth bass, a species that is not native to Montana.

"They haven't been found in Seeley Lake before," said Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel. "They're a predator and they could potentially do pretty well in the system."

Saffel said it is unlikely that the bass have been in Seeley, but were simply undiscovered. The more likely scenario is that someone has been trying to seed the lake with the out-of-state species, an activity that is illegal.

Smallmouth bass aren't the first non-native predator to be introduced to Seeley Lake. Northern pike have been swimming there for years. Although the pike are aggressive predators of native trout, which FWP is trying to protect, Saffel said that smallmouth bass could cause even more harm.

"We do have northern pike in these lakes and they were illegally introduced as well," Saffel said. "But the smallmouth can, I think, use more of the habitat than a northern pike will. We keep adding these illegally introduced fish, they're predators, more fish eating the fish that we're trying to manage for... it just makes things difficult."

Saffel said that a reward of up to $1,000, and perhaps even more, will be awarded to whomever can help locate the individual or individuals who brought the smallmouth bass to Seeley Lake. The number to call with information about the bass is 1-800-TIP-MONT.

FWP will also be proposing a no limit harvest regulation for bass in Seeley Lake at the October 10 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting.