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New trout limit at Scofield confuses some anglers

Trey Cider caught this tiger trout at Scofield last fall.

The trout limit at Scofield changed this year. But one wouldn't know it if they saw the number of trout some anglers are trying to keep.

"If the anglers who are doing this understood the damage they're doing to the fishery by not obeying the limit, I think they'd start obeying it," says Brent Stettler, region outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

The new limit at Scofield allows an angler to keep a total of four trout. But a fisherman may have only two cutthroat or tiger trout under 15 inches long within the four-trout limit. And the four-trout limit may not include more than one cutthroat or tiger trout over 22 inches long.

All cutthroat and tiger trout between 15 and 22 inches long must be released immediately.

The Utah Wildlife Board approved the new limit to keep plenty of tiger trout and Bear Lake cutthroat trout in the reservoir. Both of these fish, especially the Bear Lake cutthroats, are effective chub eaters.

And that's what Scofield needs right now — fish that can keep an exploding Utah chub population in check.

Stettler says during spring gill net surveys in 2006, DWR biologists found an average of two chubs in each net they pulled in. The next year, that number rose to 26 chubs per net. In 2008, the number jumped to 205 chubs per net.

If the chub population keeps growing, the trout population in the reservoir could be affected dramatically.

"The problem with chubs stems from anglers who use live minnows as bait," Stettler says. "Some escape the hook. Others are dumped into the water at the end of the day. Over time, the minnows reproduce. The result is a reservoir full of unwanted fish."

Stettler reminds anglers that anyone who moves fish from one water to another is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. And anyone who fishes with live minnows is also guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

"The reason (for the heavy penalty) is that it costs millions of dollars to treat and restock a reservoir," Stettler says. "Even after the reservoir has been treated, restrictive regulations have to be imposed to protect the reservoir from a resurgence of unwanted fish."

DWR Lieutenant Carl Gramlich identifies another issue worth mentioning.

"More and more anglers are collecting eggs from trout [to use as bait]," he says. "Many of these eggs are later returned to the water.

"The 2009 Utah Fishing Guidebook states that eggs may not be taken or used from fish that are then released. Eggs may be stripped only from trout that are kept and counted as part of your daily bag limit."

DWR biologists are already collecting ideas for possible fishing regulation changes for 2010.

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