WG&F Encouraging Anglers on Flaming Gorge to target lake trout after reaching kokanee limit
Credit: Wyoming Game and Fish
Air and water temperatures are soaring and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Green River fish management staff is concerned about the impacts of catch-and-release fishing on local fisheries, especially kokanee salmon at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Creel surveys are ongoing and insights gleaned from interviews with anglers indicate that about 20% of kokanee caught have been released. As temperatures continue to warm in July and August, the fate of those released fish is unknown, even if they swim away. Many will likely die following the stress of the fight and exposure to lethal water temperatures.
"Kokanee fishing has picked up in the latter half of June. Anglers checked during the ongoing creel survey have reported catching 412 kokanee, with 329 of those fish being harvested. This means eighty-three of the kokanee caught were released." said Eddie Carlson, Green River fisheries biologist. On Jul 8, the creel crew found a 20-inch kokanee floating on the surface while checking anglers near Brinegar's Ferry Crossing. An angler undoubtedly released the fish.
Other observations made thus far by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' creel survey indicate that rainbow trout have been the most common fish caught (30%) on Flaming Gorge Reservoir, followed by small lake trout (< 28.0 in) (22%), smallmouth bass (22%), trophy lake trout (12%), and kokanee (11%) respectively.
As summer progresses, the Flaming Gorge Reservoir surface water temperatures will continue to increase rapidly, reaching temperatures lethal to kokanee. Anglers fishing for kokanee during the summer months are encouraged to stop fishing for kokanee once they catch their limit of fish (4 kokanee per day/in possession) and switch to fishing for a different species. Anglers are encouraged to target and harvest small lake trout.
"Most kokanee, this time of year, are caught from in or near the thermocline, where water temperatures are around 45-55°F. Once hooked, they are fought up through the warming water column to surface temperatures between 65-75°F. Being caught and released in the warm surface water is stressful for fish. Pulling a cold water species like kokanee from 45°F to 65°F water is life-threatening. Their chances of surviving if released are low." Carlson stated. Anglers catching and releasing kokanee during the warm summer months is a recurring problem at Flaming Gorge Reservoir each year.
For more information about fishing at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, call the Green River Region Game and Fish Office at 307-875-3223. Anglers will find additional information on the Flaming Gorge Management page.