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Encouraging Anglers to Keep Fish

Encouraging Anglers to Keep Fish
Keeping the fish you catch -- up to your legal limit -- is the key to providing enough food and space for fish to grow.
photo by Richard Hepworth, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

DWR proposes fishing rule changes for 2015

Anglers in Utah might not realize it, but the good intentions many of them have might be working against them.

Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the number of fish anglers keep in Utah has declined dramatically over the past 10 years. Here are just a few examples:

Among active Utah anglers, surveys completed in 2011 and 2014 indicate the number one thing they want from a fishing trip is a chance to catch a larger fish.

"You may not realize it," Cushing says, "but catching and releasing fish—on waters where you're allowed to keep some fish—is working against you. Until anglers start keeping some fish, the fish aren't going to grow to the size that many anglers want. Many of Utah's waters simply have too many fish."

Learn more, share your ideas

All of the DWR's fishing proposals for 2015 should be available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings by Sept. 3.

After you've reviewed the ideas, you can let your Regional Advisory Council members know your thoughts by attending your upcoming RAC meeting or by sending an email to them.

RAC chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board will meet in Salt Lake City on Oct. 2 to approve rules for Utah's 2015 fishing season.

Dates, times and locations for the RAC meetings are as follows:

Southern Region
Sept. 9
7 p.m.
Richfield High School
510 W. 100 S.

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.
DWR Northeastern Region Office
318 N. Vernal Ave.

Central Region
Sept. 16
6:30 p.m.
Department of Natural Resources
1594 W. North Temple
Salt Lake City

Northern Region
Sept. 17
6 p.m.
Brigham City Community Center
24 N. 300 W.
Brigham City


You can also provide your comments to your RAC via email. Email addresses for your RAC members are available at http://wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/rac-members.html.

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

Eliminate home possession limit

Eliminating the 'home' possession limit—the number of fish an angler can have in his or her freezer at home—might be one way to encourage anglers to keep more fish.

To see if eliminating the possession limit makes a difference, DWR biologists are recommending that the possession limit be eliminated for every fish in Utah except salmonoids—trout, kokanee salmon, whitefish and grayling.

A creel survey, which measures the number of fish anglers keep, was completed at Willard Bay Reservoir in 2012. A similar survey will wrap up at Starvation Reservoir this fall. If the possession limit is eliminated, the DWR would conduct creel surveys at both waters in 2015. Results of the earlier surveys would then be compared with results of the 2015 surveys to see if eliminating the possession limit made a difference.

"If we find that it does make a difference," Cushing says, "we might recommend that the possession limit for salmonoids be eliminated in 2016."

Remove yellow perch limit at Fish Lake

The DWR is also recommending that the yellow perch limit at Fish Lake be eliminated. Reducing the number of yellow perch would provide more zooplankton for kokanee salmon that biologists would like to introduce to the lake. A self-sustaining population of kokanee salmon would provide lake trout in the lake with an excellent food source.

"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 would increase the amount of zooplankton available for other species to eat. The idea to eliminate the yellow perch limit originated with an advisory group of anglers assembled by the DWR.

DWR biologists have already started work to try to reduce the number of yellow perch in the lake. They caught about 50,000 perch in the lake earlier this year. The perch were then transported to waters in central and north-central Utah where they were released so anglers could catch them. And divers introduced milfoil weevils to the lake this year. Biologists hope the weevils will reduce the amount of milfoil in the lake. Reducing the amount of milfoil would reduce the number of plants perch can hide in, to avoid predators.

Raising the brook trout limit at a Boulder Mountain reservoir

Another recommendation would increase the brook trout limit at Oak Creek Reservoir, one of 80 lakes and reservoirs on the Boulder Mountains in southern Utah.

An advisory group of anglers who enjoy fishing on the Boulder Mountains helped the DWR draft the proposal. If approved, the limit at Oak Creek would increase from four brook trout a day to 16 brook trout a day.

"The reservoir has so many brook trout in it that the fish have become 'stunted' and won't grow," Cushing says. "If we increase the limit, we hope anglers will remove additional fish. If they don't remove enough, we'll have to chemically treat the reservoir and then restock it with bigger brook trout."

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, as necessary, and the limit for that specific water, would eliminate a lot of confusion among anglers regarding what the limit is at each water," Cushing says.