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Fighting illegal fish

The number of Utah chubs in Scofield Reservoir is growing. And so is the number of burbot and walleye that were placed illegally in two other Utah waters.

To address those and other concerns, Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are recommending several fishing changes for Utah's 2009 season.

Biologists say the Utah chub population in Scofield Reservoir has increased dramatically during the past two years. To try and control the population before it gets too large, biologists are recommending the following actions for next year.

•Stocking Bear Lake cutthroat trout in the reservoir. Putting Bear Lake cutthroats in the reservoir would give it two "chub eaters" - the Bear Lake cutthroat trout, and tiger trout that are in the reservoir now. Bear Lake cutthroat have a proven track record in controlling chubs. DWR biologists say action must be taken immediately to control the chubs.

•Keeping plenty of large predatory Bear Lake cutthroats and tiger trout in the reservoir by lowering the trout limit to four trout. In their four-trout limit, anglers could have one cutthroat or tiger trout under 15 inches in length and one cutthroat or tiger trout over 22 inches long. All cutthroat and tiger trout between 15 and 22 inches long would have to be released immediately.

"We put Bear Lake cutthroats in Strawberry Reservoir after we treated the reservoir in 1990," says Roger Wilson, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR. "The cutthroats in Strawberry have been protected by a limit that's similar to the one we're proposing for Scofield. The cutthroats have kept the chub populations in Strawberry in check. We hope they'll do the same thing in Scofield."

Biologists are anxious to see which of the two trout is the most effective predator - Bear Lake cutthroat trout or tiger trout.

"The information we gain will help us control chub populations better in other areas of the state," Wilson says.

Illegal fish introductions could greatly affect fishing at two popular waters in northeastern Utah as well.

Someone illegally placed burbot in a drainage above Flaming Gorge Reservoir several years ago. Now the burbot have made their way into the reservoir.

Then just last spring, walleye that were illegally placed in Red Fleet Reservoir started showing up in biologists' gillnets in big numbers.

To deal with these illegal introductions, DWR biologists are recommending a catch-and-kill policy at Red Fleet. They're also recommending liberalized ice fishing and spearfishing regulations at Flaming Gorge:

Anglers would be required to keep and kill all the walleyes they caught at Red Fleet Reservoir.

Anglers at Flaming Gorge Reservoir must already kill every burbot they catch. Starting in 2009, anglers could also use up to six poles to fish through the ice at the reservoir.

A second pole permit would not be required when fishing through the ice. However, a second pole permit would be required to fish with more than one pole at Flaming Gorge when the water is open, including when the water is open in the winter.

Wilson says the ice-fishing season is the best time of year to catch burbot at the reservoir. "They're not an attractive fish, but burbot are a great fish to eat," he says. "This proposal would give anglers a chance to help the fishery and take more burbot home to eat."

Also at Flaming Gorge, spear fishermen could underwater spearfish for burbot 24 hours a day, throughout the year. They could also use artificial lights, but only when pursuing burbot. These underwater spearfishing changes should result in additional burbot being taken.

All of the DWR's 2009 fishing proposals should be posted on the public meetings part of this website starting the week of Aug. 25.

Once anglers have read the proposals, they can share their thoughts through regional advisory council meetings that 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 set rules for Utah's 2009 fishing season.

Anglers can participate and provide input at the southeastern meeting on Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River or on Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Western Park (302 East 200 South) in in Vernal.

There will also be a meeting on Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Springville Junior High, located at 165 South 700 East.

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