Encouraging anglers to keep fish
SALT LAKE CITY — Biologists hope rule changes approved by the Utah Wildlife Board will encourage anglers to keep more fish in Utah.
"A chance to catch a larger fish is the number one thing active Utah anglers have told us they want," says Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Unfortunately, at many of the state’s waters, anglers are releasing too many fish. If they’ll start keeping fish, up to their legal limit, the growth rate of the remaining fish should improve."
Cushing says when a water has too many fish in it, the fish run out of food. And that limits how big each fish can grow. "In addition to helping the fish population," Cushing says, "keeping fish will add something to your diet that’s extremely healthy and good to eat."
To encourage anglers to keep more fish, the Wildlife Board recently approved several rule changes for the 2015 season. The changes take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
You can see all of the changes the board approved in the 2015 Utah Fishing Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available online by early November.
No home possession limit
Members of the board hope eliminating the ‘home’ possession limit—the number of fish an angler can have in his or her freezer at home—will help anglers develop a new ‘mindset’ that encourages them to keep more fish.
DWR biologists originally recommended that the possession limit be eliminated for every fish in Utah except salmonoids—trout, kokanee salmon, whitefish and grayling. The board, however, eliminated the home possession limit for every fish species in the state.
A creel survey, which measures the number of fish anglers keep, was completed at Willard Bay Reservoir in 2011. A similar survey will wrap up at Starvation Reservoir this fall. The DWR will conduct creel surveys at both waters in 2015. Results of the earlier surveys will then be compared with results of the 2015 surveys to see if eliminating the possession limit made a difference in the number of fish anglers kept.
No yellow perch limit at Fish Lake
The board also approved a DWR recommendation to eliminate the daily yellow perch limit at Fish Lake.
"In surveys," Cushing says, "anglers have indicated that the number one reason they go to Fish Lake is to catch big lake trout. Right now, the yellow perch population in the lake is so large that trying to introduce a species for lake trout to feed on isn’t going to work."
Cushing says reducing the number of yellow perch will increase the amount of zooplankton available for other species to eat, including kokanee salmon that biologists want to introduce to the lake. A self-sustaining population of kokanee salmon would provide an excellent food source for lake trout in the lake.
The idea to eliminate the yellow perch limit originated with an advisory group of anglers assembled by the DWR.
Brook trout limit increased at Boulder Mountain reservoir
The board also approved a recommendation to increase the daily brook trout limit at Oak Creek Reservoir, one of 80 lakes and reservoirs on the Boulder Mountains in southern Utah.
Starting Jan. 1, the limit at Oak Creek will increase from four brook trout a day to 16 brook trout a day.
"The reservoir has an increasing population of brook trout, and fish are growing much slower," Cushing says. "The fish are not getting as big. When the limit increases on Jan. 1, we hope anglers will take advantage of the increased limit and remove some additional fish. If they don’t remove enough fish, we’ll have to chemically treat the reservoir and then restock it with sterile brook trout that can’t reproduce."
Another change on the Boulder Mountains involves placing limits on each of the mountain’s 80 lakes and reservoirs. Currently, lakes and reservoirs are grouped together, based on where on the mountain they’re located. Then, a limit is applied to every lake or reservoir in the group.
"Listing each water that has a limit that’s different from the general statewide limit, and what the limit is for that specific water, will eliminate a lot of confusion among anglers regarding what the limit is at each water," Cushing says.
An advisory group of anglers who enjoy fishing on the Boulder Mountains helped the DWR draft the proposal the board approved.
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