Lake Trout: Too Many Mouths to Feed

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DWR Press Release

Anglers urged to keep lake trout at Flaming Gorge Reservoir

Dutch John — You can make fishing better—and provide a healthy and tasty meal for your family and friends—by keeping your limit of lake trout at Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

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 abundant small lake trout are competing with kokanee salmon and rainbow trout for food. Because there isn’t enough food to go around, the rate at which the lake trout are growing is in decline. And, the number of kokanee salmon and rainbow trout in the reservoir is declining too.

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. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the UDWR are working together to get the word to anglers: please help the fishery by keeping lake trout that are less than 28 inches long.

“In the 1990s,” Mosley says, “an eight-year-old lake trout was about 30 inches long. Today, an eight-year-old fish is 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 couple of years. And we’re concerned the situation is going to get worse.”

Mosley says reducing the number of smaller lake trout would provide more food for the remaining fish to eat. And that would do two positive things:

·         More food would allow more salmon and rainbow trout to survive, providing more of these fish for anglers to catch.

·         Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout are the primary fish trophy lake trout prey on. Having more salmon and rainbows to eat would allow the remaining lake trout to grow faster and larger.

“And, unbeknownst to many anglers,” Mosley says, “the smaller lake trout are quite tasty. They’re one of my favorite fish to eat. In Flaming Gorge, only kokanee salmon rival them in taste.”

Lake trout limit

To address the lake trout concerns, Utah and Wyoming liberalized lake trout limits at the Gorge in 2006. The daily limit is eight lake trout, but only one of the fish can be longer than 28 inches. “Anglers are crucial to controlling the number of lake trout in the reservoir,” Mosley says.

On Dec. 6, Mosley said the lake trout bite was good from a boat and even from the shore. “Many anglers don’t fish the Gorge’s open water this time of year,” he says, “so there’s very little fishing pressure. It’s a great time 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.

“Over the past few weeks,” she says, “ice has started forming on waters throughout the Uintah Basin. With nighttime temperatures staying below the freezing mark, the thickness of the ice should improve. So far this year, the only ice on Flaming Gorge extends into the northern reaches of the Wyoming side of the reservoir.”

If you have questions about specific locations or techniques to target smaller lake trout at Flaming Gorge, call Mosley at 435-885-3164.