Anglers teamed with state and federal agencies late this spring in an innovative effort to improve numbers of smallmouth bass on the north end of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a Green River fishery on the Utah-Wyoming border.
“Since burbot became established in Flaming Gorge, the numbers of smallmouth bass have declined on the Wyoming side of the reservoir due to predation on small bass and competition for food,” explained Ryan Mosley of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR).
“Although burbot are found in the canyon (Utah) portion of the reservoir, their numbers remain relatively low,” he added. “As a result, smallmouth bass are very abundant, with bass hiding behind almost every rock during the summer months.”
On May 30, forty anglers from Utah B.A.S.S. Nation and other angling groups teamed with UDWR, Wyoming Game and Fish (WGF), the U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management to take advantage of this abundance on the south end. They caught 359 smallmouths by hook and line and transferred them to transport boats. After they were measured and tagged, the fish were moved to one of two sites 30 to 40 miles uplake for release.
“Both UDWR and WGF are interested in assessing growth, movement, and survival of these tagged smallmouth bass in Flaming Gorge, assisting the agencies in monitoring the success of the transplants and future management of the fishery,” Mosley said.
While in Colorado . . .
Under a plan proposed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), regulations regarding harvest of smallmouth bass will be relaxed as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery program. It must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies before being implemented.
“We developed the management plan with input we received at a public meeting in 2010 and comments we have received since then,” said aquatic biologist Lori Martin. “Public feedback was critical to form what we feel is a very good vision for future fisheries management of Rifle Gap.”
Present regulation includes a two-fish limit and a 15-inch minimum size, with a spawning closure. Under the new management plan, the limit would be five, with no minimum size and no spring catch-and-release only season.
The plan was developed to diminish predation and thus aid in recovery of the native razorback sucker, bonytail chub, humpback hub, and the Colorado pikeminnow, found only in the Upper Colorado basin. As part of the strategy, an in-stream fish screen was built in Rifle Creek, downstream of the reservoir, to prevent non-native sport fish from escaping.
Smallmouth bass and walleye have been self-sustaining in the reservoir since they were stocked by the former Colorado Division of Wildlife in 1972. No additional bass, walleye or any other cool/warm water species have been added since.
Northern pike were illegally introduced between 1993 and 1999, causing conflict among anglers, CPW said. “Some anglers covet the northern pike and the opportunity to catch a trophy-size fish in western Colorado. Anglers fishing for smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, and trout are adamantly opposed to CPW managing Rifle Gap for northern pike.”
The proposed plan would keep unlimited bag and possession limits for pike, with bowfishing and spearfishing as methods of legal take.
(These articles appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)