Currently, the popular reservoir in northeastern Utah-known for producing some of the largest lake trout in the country-has too many small lake trout in it. The abundance of small lake trout is creating competition for a limited food supply. The competition is reducing lake trout growth rates and reducing the number of kokanee salmon and rainbow trout available for anglers to catch.
Ryan Mosley, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources lead fisheries biologist at Flaming Gorge, says growth rates for lake trout have diminished in the reservoir since the 1990s.
"An eight-year-old lake trout was about 30 inches long in the 1990s," Mosley says. "Today, an eight-year-old fish is only about 23 inches long. On top of the decreased length, the number of lake trout in the reservoir has increased 89 percent in just the last two years, so we're concerned the situation may only get worse."
Mosley says reducing the number of smaller lake trout would decrease competition for food among lake trout, kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout. Reduction would also increase the survival of salmon and rainbow trout and provide more of them to catch. Since kokanee salmon and rainbow trout are the primary prey for trophy lake trout, it would provide more salmon and rainbows for the remaining lake trout to eat, allowing the lake trout to grow quicker and larger.
"And, unbeknownst to many anglers, the smaller lake trout are quite tasty," Mosley says. "They're one of my favorite fish to eat. In Flaming Gorge, they're a close second to kokanee salmon on the taste scale." Lake trout limit
To address the lake trout concerns, the states of Utah and Wyoming liberalized lake trout limits at the Gorge in 2006. Decreasing the number of smaller lake trout is the goal of the liberalized limits.
Mosley says the daily lake trout bag limit at the Gorge is eight lake trout, but only one of the fish can be longer than 28 inches. He says anglers are crucial to controlling the number of lake trout in the reservoir. "Now that the ice is forming in many reaches of the Gorge," he says, "it's a great opportunity for anglers to get out and target these smaller fish."
Tonya Kieffer, regional conservation outreach manager for the UDWR, says the beginning of the ice fishing season tends to be the best time to get out and secure a limit of lake trout. "If temperatures stay below the freezing mark," she says, "the thickness of the ice should improve."
If you have questions about specific locations or techniques to target smaller lake trout at Flaming Gorge, call Mosley at 435-885-3164.