Photo by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Many of Utah’s anglers aren’t happy about the size of the bass they’re catching. Division of Wildlife Resources biologists have an idea to fix the problem: get more anglers who are willing to keep fish involved in bass fishing.
All of the DWR’s proposed fishing changes for the state’s 2011 fishing season should be available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings starting Aug. 23.
Learn more, share your ideas
After you’ve reviewed the ideas, you can let your Regional Advisory Council members know your thoughts by attending your upcoming RAC meeting or by sending an e-mail to them.
RAC chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board will meet in Salt Lake City on Sept. 23 to approve rules for Utah’s 2011 fishing season.
Dates, times and locations for the RAC meetings are as follows:
Sept. 7, 7 p.m.
Richfield High School
510 W 100 S, Richfield
Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
1765 E Main Street, Green River
Sept. 9, 6:30 p.m.
Uintah Basin Applied Technology College
450 N 2000 W, Vernal
Sept. 14, 6:30 p.m.
Springville Junior High School
167 S 700 E, Springville
Sept. 15, 6 p.m.
Brigham City Community Center
24 N 300 W, Brigham City
You can also provide your comments to your RAC via e-mail. E-mail addresses for your RAC members are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings .
The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each person's e-mail address. You should direct your e-mail to the people on the RAC who represent your interest.
Smaller Bass Limits
Reducing the number of bass limits in Utah—from eight major limits to two—is the idea biologists have to get more anglers involved in bass fishing.
Specifically, biologists are recommending the following:
- A limit of six bass—with no size restrictions—at most of Utah's bass waters.
- Five reservoirs—Jordanelle, Quail Creek, Sand Hollow, Gunlock and Huntington North—would also have a six-bass limit. But only one bass in that six-bass limit could be longer than 12 inches.
Biologists would also like to simplify the bass limits at Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge. But they need to do additional work with biologists in Arizona and Wyoming to make that happen.
More anglers, bigger bass
If you think of Utah's bass fishing waters as a big cookie jar, it helps to understand why they have so many small fish: with the exception of Lake Powell, anglers are keeping only four percent or less of the total adult bass population at Utah's bass waters every year.
They're releasing at least 96 percent of the bass they catch.
The amount of room in the cookie jar is limited. You can fill the jar with lots of small crumbs, or you can fill it with a few cookies. But there isn't room in the jar for both. "Right now, many of Utah's bass waters are filled with bass in the nine- to 12-inch range," says Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR.
"Anglers need to remove more of the smaller bass to make room for bigger fish. The smaller fish are eating most of the food and utilizing most of the cover."
Cushing says the new limits should benefit all bass anglers, ranging from those who are new to bass fishing to those who have fished for years.
"Beginning anglers aren't as concerned about catching a big fish," Cushing says. "They're happy with smaller fish. And they want a chance to keep some fish."
Cushing says it's tough to get new anglers interested in bass fishing when the state has eight different bass limits, including some that are fairly restrictive. "If we can reduce the number of bass limits, make the limits easier to understand and give anglers a chance to keep some fish, we think more anglers will give bass fishing a try."
And that, in turn, should lead to bigger fish to catch.
Four waters and big bass
Cushing says Jordanelle, Quail Creek, Sand Hollow and Gunlock are four waters biologists believe have the potential to grow large bass. Allowing anglers to keep six bass—but limiting them to not more than one bass longer than 12 inches—should keep plenty of big bass in these waters.
Cushing says that won't happen, though, unless those who fish the waters are willing to keep bass that are less than 12 inches long. "If they don't take some of the smaller bass, it will be difficult for the bass to grow to a larger size," he says.
Cushing says the regulation at Huntington North should give bass in the reservoir some extra protection. "The water level at the reservoir fluctuates a lot," he says. "In fact, water levels in all of our bass waters are the limiting factor facing bass in Utah. Good water years mean great fishing. Poor water years mean poor fishing."
For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.