DUTCH JOHN — Thousands of one- to five-pound lake trout are swimming in Flaming Gorge Reservoir. If you're a boat angler and want to pursue a fish that's easy to catch and good to eat, these smaller lake trout could be just what you're looking for.
So many lake trout are in the reservoir that the lake trout limit for 2006 has been raised to eight fish (not more than one can be longer than 28 inches, however).
Lowell Marthe, acting Flaming Gorge project leader for the Division of Wildlife Resources, provides the following tips for catching lake trout at Flaming Gorge this year:
In 2006, anglers have a great opportunity to take advantage of new fishing regulations at Flaming Gorge. Anglers can now keep up to eight lake trout, but only one may exceed 28 inches.
The DWR is encouraging anglers to take home limits of small lake trout to help the fishery.
Biologists from Utah and Wyoming feel there is an overabundance of lake trout less than 28 inches in the reservoir. In the future, that could mean trouble for the fishery when these small lake trout mature and switch from their current diet of crayfish and aquatic insects to a diet of fish. The kokanee salmon population at the reservoir is currently in a down cycle, and additional predation by lake trout could keep kokanee numbers from rebounding.
Unlike their large relatives, small lake trout are exceptionally good to eat. Their flesh is often similar to rainbow trout and kokanee salmon in color, texture and flavor. Cooked fresh on a grill or baked in the oven, you'll be hard pressed to find a difference in flavor between small lake trout and the tastiest rainbow trout. So please do your part to help manage the fishery by taking home a limit of small lake trout.
The small lake trout are also easier to catch than their big brothers and sisters. Early in the year is a great time to start pursuing them, as they concentrate in certain areas of the reservoir at the start of the year. Starting in late April and running through May, anglers will find concentrations of fish in the Wyoming end of the reservoir. Licensed Utah anglers can buy a $10 reciprocal stamp and fish the Wyoming portion of the reservoir.
From the confluence area to Buckboard and south, bottom flats just off the old river channel and points coming out into the reservoir will hold numerous fish. The fish are relatively shallow (30 to 50 feet) and are typically quite willing to hit a jig or lure. Anglers can troll flat bottom areas using small plugs or spoons off a downrigger or jig when they see concentrations of fish on their graphs. Good colors for spoons and plugs include chartreuse, orange and white. Good colors for jigs include whites, browns and chartreuse. If you know the fish are there, but they're not biting, try tipping your jig with a small piece of sucker meat.
As the summer progresses, the small lake trout will move south to cooler, deeper water and spread out onto many of the deeper points and structure in the reservoir. Later in the summer, anglers should fish in depths of 60 or more feet. Fishing jigs and plugs on downriggers or lead core line are good ways to catch deeper fish.
In addition to the lake trout limit, anglers may keep four trout or kokanee salmon in aggregate, but not more than three of these fish may be kokanee salmon. As previously stated, the kokanee population in the reservoir is on a down cycle.
However, kokanee salmon will be larger than they are during years when there are more kokanee in the reservoir. The DWR is encouraging anglers to practice restraint when fishing for kokanee. Once anglers have their three fish limit, please switch and fish for another species. Kokanee salmon do not fair as well with catch and release fishing as some other species do, such as bass and lake trout. This is especially true when the water temperature warm ups.
By not catching and releasing kokanee salmon, you will help ensure enough fish remain in the population to complete a successful spawn this fall.
Anglers should be aware that burbot, or ling, have entered the reservoir through the Green River in Wyoming after being illegally introduced to the drainage.
New fishing regulations state that anglers must keep and kill any burbot they catch. Burbot have only been caught in the northern portion of the reservoir but they're expected to move south with time. Anglers should familiarize themselves with what burbot look like in case they catch one.