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New limits at community ponds

New limits for perch and community ponds go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010.

SALT LAKE CITY — You should catch more fish more often when you visit Utah's community fishing waters next year.

A young angler
Anglers of all ages should catch fish more often at Utah's community fishing ponds next year. The Utah Wildlife Board has approved a new two-fish limit at community ponds in 2010.

Photo by Brent Stettler

And while it might take a year or two to notice, perch fishing at waters across Utah should become more consistent too.

Two changes approved by the Utah Wildlife Board on October 1: a two-fish limit at the community waters and a 50-fish yellow perch limit across the state—are the reasons for both.

The new limits start Jan. 1, 2010.

All of the changes the board approved will be available in the 2010 Utah Fishing Guidebook. The guidebook will be available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks later this fall.

50-perch limit

Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the 50-perch limit should improve perch fishing in Utah.

Right now, the perch limit in Utah varies by water. It ranges from a low of 10 perch at some waters to as high as 50 perch at other waters.

"Perch in the West have two challenges that perch in other parts of the country don't have," Cushing says.

The first challenge is the water level in Western reservoirs. These water levels go up and down from year to year. Because they fluctuate, the base of vegetation in many of Utah's reservoirs doesn't remain stable. And without a stable food supply and cover to hide in, perch populations don't remain stable either.

Another thing yellow perch need is a complex fish community that provides plenty of different fish for predators to prey on. Unfortunately, fish populations in the West aren't that complex. When perch populations get large, walleye and other predators zero in on them.

A lack of food, cover and other species for predators to prey on creates boom-and-bust cycles. The cycle begins when the perch population is small. There's plenty of food for the perch to eat and lots of cover to hide in. The perch population explodes, and fishing is great. Then the population crashes as the perch start to compete with each other for food and cover, and other predators and bigger perch prey on the smaller perch.

After the crash, the cycle starts all over again.

"Having a higher limit will allow anglers to keep more perch. Keeping the perch populations from getting too large will help smooth out the 'ups and downs' the populations go through in these cycles," Cushing says. "Perch fishing will be much more consistent. And anglers will still catch some nice-sized fish."

Looking at data from the perch-fishing waters in Utah illustrates what Cushing is talking about. The waters with 10-perch limits have the biggest boom-and-bust cycles, while waters with 50-perch limits, such as Pineview Reservoir, provide more consistent fishing.

Community fishing waters

Another change should make fishing at Utah's 42 community fishing waters even better by reducing the number of fish anglers can keep.

Currently, anglers can keep up to four fish at these waters. To improve fishing, community parks and recreation directors and individual anglers asked the DWR to lower the limit. They also recommended protecting largemouth bass under a catch-and-release-only regulation.

"Largemouth bass don't spawn until they're at least eight inches long," Cushing says. "Very few of the bass in these waters ever make it to that length because anglers catch them before they get that big.

"The community waters that have bass also have bluegill. We need the bass to keep the bluegill populations under control. If the bluegill populations get too large, they won't reach a size that most anglers will want to keep."

Board members agreed with the biologists' recommendations. Starting Jan. 1, 2010, the daily limit at the community waters will be lowered to two fish. And—even though you won't be required to—you're strongly encouraged to release all of the largemouth bass you catch.

"These waters receive a lot of fishing pressure," Cushing says. "Most of the fish we stock are caught two or three days after we stock them. Then fishing usually slows down until we can stock the water again."

Cushing says lowering the limit will keep fish in these waters for a longer period of time. And that will improve fishing for everyone. "Each time you go out, you'll have a better chance at catching a fish because many of the fish we stocked will still be in the water," he says.

Changes at Kolob Reservoir

The board also passed changes at Kolob Reservoir in southwestern Utah. Anglers proposed these changes to the DWR. The anglers hope the changes will bring more families and children to the reservoir to fish.

Under the current rules, anglers may fish at Kolob with artificial flies and lures only. They can keep only one trout, and that trout must be at least 18 inches long.

After a cabin owner near the reservoir circulated a petition last fall, the Wildlife Advisory Council in southwestern Utah asked the DWR to assemble an advisory committee to suggest various options.

"This committee worked really hard, and we appreciate their efforts," says Roger Wilson, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR.

"The committee came up with a compromise. Their goal was to maintain quality fishing at the reservoir while giving children a better chance to catch and keep fish."

Starting on Jan. 1, 2010, the trout limit at the reservoir will be increased to two trout. Any trout kept must be less than 15 inches long or over 22 inches in length. All trout between 15 and 22 inches must be released immediately.

Also, from Jan. 1 through late May 2010, you must use artificial flies or lures. From late May until early September, you can use bait. Starting in mid-September, you must switch back to flies and lures until late May 2011.

The board approved the rules for Kolob on a three-year trial basis.

For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office. You can also call the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.

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