Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DWR proposes fishing changes for 2010

Starting in 2010, the chance you’ll catch yellow perch in Utah could increase. And the chance to catch fish at Utah’s community fishing waters might go up too.

A statewide yellow perch limit and a lower limit at the community waters are among the ideas Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are proposing for Utah’s 2010 fishing season.

Learn more, share your ideas

All of the DWR’s fishing proposals are available at . Once you’ve read the proposals, you can share your thoughts and ideas one of two ways:

RAC meetings

Five Regional Advisory Council meetings will be held across Utah. Citizens representing the RACs will take the input received at the meetings to the Utah Wildlife Board. Board members will use the input to help them set rules for Utah’s 2010 fishing season. They’ll set those rules at their Oct. 1 meeting in Salt Lake City.

You can participate and provide your input at any of the following meetings:

Southern Region
Sept. 8
7 p.m.
Beaver High School
195 E. Center St.

Southeastern Region
Sept. 9
6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
1765 E. Main St.
Green River

Northeastern Region
Sept. 10
6:30 p.m.
Western Park, Room #1
302 E. 200 S.

Central Region
Sept. 15
6:30 p.m.
Central Region Conference Center
1115 N. Main St.

Northern Region
Sept. 16
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 .

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.

50-perch limit

Fishing for yellow perch in Utah is kind of like going on a roller-coaster ride -- you’ll experience plenty of ups and downs. One year, fishing will be great. Then, the next year, you’ll have a tough time finding perch at the same water you caught fish at the year before.

DWR biologists know why.

“Perch in the West have two challenges that perch in other parts of the country don’t have,” says Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR.

The first challenge is the water level in Western reservoirs. These water levels fluctuate from year to year. Because they fluctuate, many of Utah’s reservoirs can’t provide the stable vegetation base a perch population needs to remain stable.

In addition to stable water supplies, yellow perch need another thing to remain stable -- a complex fish community that provides predators in the water with fish to eat besides just the perch. Unfortunately, fish populations in the West aren’t that complex, and predators prey heavily on perch when perch populations get large.

A lack of food, cover and other species for predators to prey on creates boom-and-bust cycles. The cycle begins when the perch population is small. There’s plenty of food for the perch to eat and lots of cover to hide in. The perch population explodes, and fishing is great. Then the population crashes as the perch compete for food and cover, and other predators and bigger perch prey on the smaller perch.

After the crash, the cycle starts all over again.

To smooth these cycles out, DWR biologists are recommending that Utah does what almost all of the other states in the West have already done -- adopt a higher perch limit.

Right now, the perch limit in Utah varies by water. It ranges from a low of 10 perch at some waters to as high as 50 perch at other waters.

For 2010, the DWR is recommending a statewide limit of 50 perch.

“Having a higher limit would allow anglers to keep more perch. That would help smooth out the ups and downs perch populations go through in these cycles,” Cushing says. “Perch fishing would be much more consistent. And anglers would still catch some nice-sized fish.”

Looking at data from the perch-fishing waters in Utah illustrates what Cushing is talking about. The waters with 10-perch limits have the biggest boom-and-bust cycles, while waters with 50-perch limits, such as Pineview Reservoir, provide more consistent fishing.

Community fishing waters

DWR biologists would also like to improve fishing at Utah’s 39 community fishing waters by reducing the number of fish anglers can keep.

Currently, anglers can keep up to four fish at these waters. To improve fishing, community parks and recreation directors and individual anglers have asked the DWR to lower the limit.

“These waters receive a lot of fishing pressure,” Cushing says. “Most of the fish we stock are caught two or three days after we stock them. Then fishing usually slows down until we can stock the waters again.”

Cushing says lowering the limit would keep fish in these waters for a longer period of time. And that would improve fishing for everyone. “Each time you went out, you’d have a better chance at catching a fish because many of the fish we stocked would still be in the water,” he says.

After parks and recreation directors saw the results of an angler survey the DWR conducted at the waters, they suggested to the DWR that the daily limit at the community waters be lowered to two fish a day. The directors are also recommending that largemouth bass be protected under a catch-and-release only regulation.

“Largemouth bass don’t spawn until they’re at least eight inches long,” Cushing says. “Very few of the bass in these waters ever make it to that length because anglers catch them before they get that big.

“The community waters that have bass also have bluegill. We need the bass to keep the bluegill populations under control. If the bluegill populations get too large, the bluegill won’t reach a size that most anglers will want to catch.”

Changes at Kolob Reservoir

Some anglers who fish at Kolob Reservoir in southwestern Utah have asked the DWR to consider changing the trout limit at the reservoir.

They hope the change will bring more families and children to the reservoir to fish.

Under the current rules, anglers may fish at Kolob with artificial flies and lures only. They can keep only one trout, and that trout must be at least 18 inches long.

After a cabin owner near the reservoir circulated a petition last fall, the Wildlife Advisory Council in southwestern Utah asked the DWR to assemble an advisory committee to suggest various options.

“This committee worked really hard, and we appreciate their efforts,” says Roger Wilson, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR.

“The committee has come up with a compromise. Their goal is to maintain quality fishing at the reservoir while giving kids a better chance to catch and keep fish.”

Starting in 2010, the committee recommends that the trout limit be increased to two trout. Any trout kept would have to be less than 15 inches or over 22 inches in length. All trout between 15 and 22 inches would have to be released.

Anglers would also be required to use artificial flies or lures from early September through late May of the following year.

From late May until early September, anglers would be allowed to use bait.

Wilson says the committee is recommending the new rules on a three-year trial basis.

For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.

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