Keep small lake trout caught at Flaming Gorge
Public cooperation is needed to help make a better fishery.
MANILA, DAGGETT COUNTY — Several agencies are asking for the public's help in improving the health of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir fishery. The most beneficial step anglers can take is to keep the small lake trout they catch.
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. In Flaming Gorge, lake trout larger than 25 inches mainly consume kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. If the abundant population of smaller lake trout (under 25 inches) is not reduced, there could be impacts on the salmon and rainbow trout populations, as well as fewer fish to feed the trophy lake trout.
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.
"In the 1990s, an 8-year-old lake trout was about 30 inches long," Mosley said. "Today, an 8-year-old fish is about 23 inches long. On top of the decreased length, the number of lake trout in the reservoir has increased dramatically in the last couple of years, and we're concerned the situation is going to get worse."
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has partnered with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Flaming Gorge Chamber of Commerce to get the word out that anglers can help the fishery by keeping small lake trout.
"Many anglers don't realize the smaller lake trout are quite tasty," Mosley said. "They're one of my favorite fish to eat. In Flaming Gorge, only kokanee salmon rival them in taste."
Lake trout limits
In 2019, the lake trout daily limit was increased to 12 lake trout, with only one fish exceeding 28 inches. Anglers also have a two-day possession limit at the reservoir. During the spring, lake trout forage close to the shoreline, so anglers should have excellent opportunities to fill their limits.
"Anglers are fundamental to helping control the number of lake trout in the reservoir," Mosley said. "Many anglers don't fish the Gorge's open water this time of year, so there's very little fishing pressure. It's a great time to get out and target these smaller fish."
The agencies are hosting a fishing tournament that will give anglers an additional incentive to reduce the number of small lake trout at Flaming Gorge.
The fishing tournament, the Mac Attack Derby, will be held April 27–28 and is open to both boating and shoreline anglers. Prizes will be awarded for catching the daily limit that has the most pounds of lake trout under 25 inches. The entry fees will be redistributed as prizes.
"We hope efforts like this derby also serve as an educational opportunity to address the biologists' growing concerns," Mosley said. "Anglers can help the Flaming Gorge fishery by harvesting these small lake trout."
For more information about the rules of the tournament and how to enter, visit the Wyoming Game and Fish Department WGFD Green River Region website or the Flaming Gorge Chamber of Commerce website or Facebook page.
If you have questions about specific locations or techniques to target smaller lake trout at Flaming Gorge, call the DWR Northeastern Region office at 435-885-3164.