SALT LAKE CITY — The Division of Wildlife Resources is encouraging Utah anglers to keep fish rather than catching and releasing.
Fish in Utah waters are overcrowded, resulting in less food for the fish population and smaller fish for anglers. Surveys of Utah’s active anglers, completed between 2011 and 2014, showed they want to catch larger fish.
"You may not realize it but catching and releasing fish — on waters where you're allowed to keep some fish — is working against you,” said Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. “Until anglers start keeping some fish, the fish aren't going to grow to the size that many anglers want. Many of Utah's waters simply have too many fish."
In the past 10 years, the rate at which anglers catch and keep fish from Utah waters has decreased, resulting in the release of 95 percent of brown trout and 90 percent of black bass, according to DWR.
Anglers kept only 1,500 walleye at Willard Bay Reservoir in 2012, compared to 16,000 12 years ago. The DWR is currently finishing a study at Starvation Reservoir to collect similar data as it considers eliminating the statewide home possession limit — a cap on how many fish an angler can have in their freezer — on all fish except salmonoids for 2015. Another study of the two reservoirs would take place in 2015 if the limit was lifted.
"If we find that it does make a difference," Cushing says, "we might recommend that the possession limit for salmonoids be eliminated in 2016."
Other proposals include eliminating a yellow perch limit at Fish Lake to provide more food for kokanee salmon, increasing the brook trout limit at Oak Creek Reservoir from four brook trout a day to 16 a day.
"The reservoir has so many brook trout in it that the fish have become 'stunted' and won't grow," Cushing said. "If we increase the limit, we hope anglers will remove additional fish. If they don't remove enough, we'll have to chemically treat the reservoir and then restock it with bigger brook trout."