Panguitch -- Anglers who plan on ringing in the New Year with an ice-fishing trip to Panguitch Lake will find good fishing and some new fishing regulations.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, the trout limit at Panguitch Lake will be four trout. The trout must be under 15 inches, or over 22 inches, in length. All trout from 15 to 22 inches must be immediately released.

Bait fishing is still allowed at the lake, but anglers are encouraged to use artificial lures, which make it easier to release fish. Anglers are also asked to retrieve fish as quickly as possible and to not remove fish that are 15 to 22 inches long from the water. If you find that you've hooked a fish deeply, the best thing to do is cut your line and leave the hook in the fish. The hook will eventually dissolve or work itself free on its own.

A Popular Water

Located about 15 miles southwest of Panguitch, Panguitch Lake is one of Utah's most popular fishing waters. Thousands of anglers flock to its shores every year to try their luck at catching a limit of trout from the depths of this chilly high mountain lake.

Panguitch Lake is at an elevation of more than 8,200 feet and is usually safe for ice fishing by late December. And that's the case this year. The lake is frozen over, and anglers are reporting great fishing. Those who are brave enough to venture out in the cold and drill a hole in the ice are catching fish between 11 and 20 inches in length.

"Most of the 10-inch rainbow trout stocked this past summer are now up to 14 inches," says Chuck Chamberlain, regional fisheries biologist with the Division of Wildlife Resources. "A limited number of larger [trout] were also stocked last summer. While the larger fish in the "slot" (15 to 22 inches long) must be released immediately, they still provide some great fun and offer a challenge to the experienced fishermen.

"Anglers are finding fish between seven and 30 feet [deep], and the catch rate is fast enough to keep even the younger anglers interested."

Anglers should find success using a jig tipped with a meal worm or a night crawler. Power bait has also been effective. So have a variety of lures and ice flies.

Making Fishing Great Again

The DWR treated the lake in spring 2006 to remove all of its fish. Those fish included Utah chubs, which made up more than 90 percent of the fish in Panguitch. Chubs are a small fish that compete aggressively with other fish for food. If left unchecked, the chubs would have completely displaced trout in the lake.

After the chubs were gone, DWR biologists planted hundreds of thousands of trout back into the lake. Those trout included rainbow trout, Bear Lake cutthroat trout and tiger trout (a cross between a brown trout and a brook trout). The fish the biologists planted varied in size, from three inches to 20 inches. Many of the rainbow trout were about 10 inches in length. Without competition from the chubs, the trout have grown rapidly and are offering excellent fishing.

The Utah Wildlife Board placed special fishing regulations on the lake for 2007 to protect Panguitch Lake from future invasions of chubs or other fish that might compete with trout. The larger trout protected by the new regulations will feed on smaller fish, including chubs, and that should prevent them from becoming a problem in the future.

"We hope that we got rid of all the chubs in Panguitch Lake with the treatment last spring," says Mike Ottenbacher, regional aquatics manager for the DWR. "If chubs do come back, the bigger fish will keep the population under control and prevent us from having to treat the lake again in the future.

"Similar management plans have been effective in other lakes around the state, such as Minersville Reservoir and Strawberry Reservoir," Ottenbacher says. "There is no reason that it won't work well here at Panguitch."

For more information, call the DWR's Southern Region office at (435) 865-6100.