Photo by Ryan Mosley, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Vernal -- On July 28, researchers with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources found something they didn’t want to find: a 21-inch burbot in the Green River below Flaming Gorge dam.
Burbot are a nonnative fish from east of the Rocky Mountains. The fish was captured during an electrofishing study to recover and study endangered fish in the Green and Colorado rivers.
“The burbot was captured from an electrofishing raft roughly 1.5 miles upstream of the Split Mountain boat ramp in Dinosaur National Monument,” says Paul Badame, UDWR native fish project leader. “This is the first capture of a burbot below Flaming Gorge dam that I’m aware of.”
The burbot likely came down the Green River after someone illegally introduced the species upstream in Big Sandy Reservoir in Wyoming. The burbot have worked their way downstream, bypassing dams at Big Sandy and Flaming Gorge.
Why the concern?
Burbot are a voracious predator, capable of breeding in both rivers and reservoirs. As a result, they can have a serious impact on both native and sport fish populations.
Biologists working on Flaming Gorge Reservoir have already noticed a rapid increase in the number of burbot in the reservoir and a corresponding decline in the number of kokanee salmon.
Burbot also pose a major risk to native fish in the Green River.
“We’re concerned that burbot will negatively impact endangered fish and other native fishes in the Green River,” says Krissy Wilson, native aquatic species coordinator for the UDWR. “We’ve seen this happen before with other nonnative fish, including northern pike, redshiner and smallmouth bass.”
Wilson says the UDWR and its partners in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program are working together to determine the best way to deal with this latest threat.
Catch and kill regulation
The UDWR has placed a ‘no tolerance’ fishing regulation on burbot in Utah: (There’s no limit on the number of burbot an angler can catch. Anglers may not release any burbot they catch.
All burbot must be killed immediately. For more information, call the UDWR’s Northeastern Region office at (435) 781-9453.