Anglers urged to keep small lake trout to help Flaming Gorge fishery; several fishing tournaments awarding prizes
Vernal — Several agencies are asking for anglers to keep any lake trout under 25 inches that are caught at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, in an effort to improve the health of the fishery. Several fishing tournaments will be held to incentivize anglers to help in this effort.
Currently, the popular reservoir in northeastern Utah — known for producing some of the largest lake trout in the U.S. — has too many small lake trout in it. In Flaming Gorge, lake trout larger than 25 inches primarily consume kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. If the abundant population of smaller lake trout (under 25 inches) is not reduced, there could be impacts on the salmon and rainbow trout populations, as well as fewer fish to feed the trophy lake trout.
"In the 1990s, an 8-year-old lake trout was about 30 inches long," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Flaming Gorge Lead Fisheries Biologist Ryan Mosley said. "Today, an 8-year-old fish is about 23 inches long. On top of the decreased length, the number of small lake trout in the reservoir has increased, and we're concerned the situation is going to get worse. We're managing for a balanced fishery of predators and prey, and currently, there are too many predators. Reducing the number of small lake trout now will mean healthier lake trout in the future, while also increasing the survival of trout and salmon that are highly sought after by anglers. They're already growing slower and unless we can 'thin the herd,' it will only get worse."
Angler harvest can be an effective tool for managing fisheries. Harvesting and reducing the number of smaller lake trout would provide more food for the remaining fish to eat, which would do two positive things:
- Allow more kokanee salmon and rainbow trout to survive so there are more for anglers to catch (because smaller lake trout not only prey on but may also compete with kokanee salmon and rainbow trout).
- Allow the remaining lake trout to grow faster and larger (because kokanee salmon and rainbow trout are the primary fish the trophy lake trout prey on).
"Many anglers don't realize the smaller lake trout are quite tasty," Mosley said. "They're one of my favorite fish to eat. In Flaming Gorge, only kokanee salmon rival them in taste."
Lake trout limits
The lake trout daily limit is 12 lake trout, with only one of the fish exceeding 28 inches. Anglers also have a two-day possession limit of lake trout at Flaming Gorge (Utah and Wyoming). During the spring, lake trout forage close to the shoreline, so anglers should have excellent opportunities to fill their limits.
"Anglers are fundamental to helping control the number of lake trout in the reservoir," Mosley said. "Many anglers don't fish the Gorge's open water this time of year, so there's very little fishing pressure. It's a great time to get out and target these smaller fish."
Several fishing tournaments hosted by various organizations will be held this spring and summer in an effort to help reduce the number of small lake trout in the reservoir. Many of these contests have a "pup category" and will award prizes to people who catch the most or heaviest lake trout under 25 inches long. More details about each of the fishing tournaments and registration links can be found on their websites:
- Flaming Gorge Fish Derby: Happening May 14–15
- Ducks Unlimited Gorge Fishing Derby: June 25–26
- Buckboard "Pupulation" Control Contest: Now until June 12 (includes a prize for catching a tagged lake trout).
- Buckboard Marina Hell on Reels Fishing Derby: June 11–12 (only for the Wyoming side of Flaming Gorge.) Prize money will be awarded to anglers that check in the highest average weight of small lake trout.