Fighting Illegally Stocked Fish in Utah

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DWR seeks input on fishing ideas for 2009

Utah WalleyeThe number of Utah chubs in Scofield Reservoir is growing. And so is the number of burbot and walleye that were placed illegally in two other Utah waters.

To address those and other concerns, Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are recommending several fishing changes for Utah’s 2009 season.

Learn more, share your ideas

All of the DWR’s 2009 fishing proposals should be posted on the public meetings part of this Web site starting the week of Aug. 25. Once you’ve read the proposals, you can share your thoughts and ideas one of two ways:

RAC meetings

Five Regional Advisory Council meetings will be held across Utah. Citizens representing the RACs will take the input received at the meetings to the Utah Wildlife Board. Board members will use the input to set rules for Utah’s 2009 fishing season.

You can participate and provide your input at any of the following meetings:

  • Southern Region
    Sept. 9, 7 p.m.
    Beaver High School
    195 E. Center St., Beaver
  • Southeastern Region
    Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m.
    John Wesley Powell Museum
    1765 E. Main St., Green River
  • Northeastern Region
    Sept. 11, 6:30 p.m.
    Western Park, Rm. #2
    302 E. 200 S., Vernal
  • Central Region
    Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m.
    Springville Junior High School
    165 S. 700 E., Springville
  • Northern Region
    Sept. 17, 6 p.m.
    Brigham City Community Center
    24 N. 300 W., Brigham City

E-mail

You can also provide your comments to your RAC via e-mail. E-mail addresses for your RAC members are available on this Web site.

The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each person’s e-mail address. You should direct your e-mail to the people on the RAC who represent your interest.

Scofield Reservoir

Biologists say the Utah chub population in Scofield Reservoir has increased dramatically during the past two years. To try and control the population before it gets too large, biologists are recommending the following:

  • Stocking Bear Lake cutthroat trout in the reservoir. Putting Bear Lake cutthroats in the reservoir would give it two “chub eaters” – the Bear Lake cutthroat trout, and tiger trout that are in the reservoir now. Bear Lake cutthroat have a proven track record in controlling chubs. DWR biologists say action must be taken immediately to control the chubs.
  • Keeping plenty of large predatory Bear Lake cutthroats and tiger trout in the reservoir by lowering the trout limit to four trout. In their four-trout limit, anglers could have one cutthroat or tiger trout under 15 inches in length and one cutthroat or tiger trout over 22 inches long. All cutthroat and tiger trout between 15 and 22 inches long would have to be released immediately.

“We put Bear Lake cutthroats in Strawberry Reservoir after we treated the reservoir in 1990. The cutthroats in Strawberry have been protected by a limit that’s similar to the one we’re proposing for Scofield,” says Roger Wilson, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR. “The cutthroats have kept the chub populations in Strawberry in check. We hope they’ll do the same thing in Scofield.”

Biologists are anxious to see which of the two trout is the most effective predator – Bear Lake cutthroat trout or tiger trout. “The information we gain will help us control chub populations better in other areas of the state,” Wilson says.

Burbot and walleye

Illegal fish introductions could greatly affect fishing at two popular waters in northeastern Utah.

Someone illegally placed burbot in a drainage above Flaming Gorge Reservoir several years ago. Now the burbot have made their way into the reservoir. Then just last spring, walleye that were illegally placed in Red Fleet Reservoir started showing up in biologists’ gillnets in big numbers.

To deal with these illegal introductions, DWR biologists are recommending a catch-and-kill policy at Red Fleet. They’re also recommending liberalized ice fishing and spearfishing regulations at Flaming Gorge:

  • Anglers would be required to keep and kill all the walleyes they caught at Red Fleet Reservoir.
  • Anglers at Flaming Gorge Reservoir must already kill every burbot they catch. Starting in 2009, anglers could also use up to six poles to fish through the ice at the reservoir. A second pole permit would not be required when fishing through the ice. However, a second pole permit would be required to fish with more than one pole at Flaming Gorge when the water is open, including when the water is open in the winter.

Wilson says the ice-fishing season is the best time of year to catch burbot at the reservoir. “They’re not an attractive fish, but burbot are a great fish to eat,” he says. “This proposal would give anglers a chance to help the fishery and take more burbot home to eat.”

Also at Flaming Gorge, spear fishermen could underwater spearfish for burbot 24 hours a day, throughout the year. They could also use artificial lights, but only when pursuing burbot. These underwater spearfishing changes should result in additional burbot being taken.

Panguitch Lake

A change at Panguitch Lake would allow anglers to keep fish they must currently release.

The limit at the lake would stay at four trout, but anglers would be allowed to keep one cutthroat or tiger trout between 15 and 22 inches long.

“Cutthroat and tiger trout start eating chubs when they reach about 17 inches in length. By the time they reach 20 inches, they’re excellent predators,” Wilson says.

“We removed all of the chubs in the reservoir in 2006. Even if we allow anglers to keep one cutthroat or tiger trout between 15 and 22 inches long, we think there will still be enough of them in the reservoir to keep the reservoir’s chub population in check.”

Wilson says the growth of the larger rainbows in the reservoir appears to be stalling at about 20 inches in length. Allowing anglers to take some fish in the 15- to 22-inch range will provide more food for the remaining fish, and that should result in more fish growing longer than 20 inches.

Tiger muskie at Newton Reservoir

Anglers would not be allowed to keep tiger muskies at Newton Reservoir under another DWR proposal.

Tiger muskies are a cross between Northern pike and muskellunge. Anglers commonly refer to muskellunge as “muskies.”

Earlier this year, the DWR had to close Pineview Reservoir to the possession of tiger muskies. The closure will help ensure plenty of tiger muskies remain in the reservoir until a disease-free population of muskies can be found to breed with Northern pike in Recapture Reservoir.

Now the biologists would also like to add Newton to the closure list.

“We’re fairly confident that we have found some muskies that are disease free,” says Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR. “We’ll know for sure by mid-September. If the muskies are disease free, we’ll bring them to Utah and start raising our own muskies at a new hatchery in Salt Lake City. Then we’ll breed them with the Northern pike at Recapture Reservoir.

“Potentially, we could be stocking tiger muskies again in two to three years,” Cushing says. “In the meantime the closure at Pineview, and the one we’re proposing for Newton, would keep plenty of big tiger muskies in those waters for anglers to catch and release.”