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VERNAL — In order to help endangered fish populations, Division of Wildlife Resources officials created new fishing rules requiring anglers to keep and kill several predatory fish species caught in the Green River.
The rule will apply to the Green River and its tributaries from Flaming Gorge Dam to the Colorado River, according to a DWR news release. Any burbot, northern pike, smallmouth bass or walleye caught in those waters must be caught and immediately killed and there is no limit for the four fish species.
"Harvest of these four non-native predators — burbot, northern pike, smallmouth bass and walleye — is mandatory, not optional,” DWR native aquatic species project leader Matt Breen said in the news release. “They cannot be released alive. You must kill them immediately."
Breen said the new rule was implemented to protect several threatened fish species in the river that are on the federal Endangered Species list: bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and razorback sucker.
Three species that the state of Utah considers threatened live in the river as well: bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker and roundtail chubs.
Any endangered fish species that are caught in the area must be immediately released, DWR said.
Anglers should know the difference between the non-native predators and the native endangered fish species before fishing in the Green River. The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the fish’s mouth and fins: Native fish don’t have any teeth in their mouths or spines on their fins, while the predators have both, the DWR said.
Breen said a large portion of the Green River provides spawning and rearing habitats for the native endangered fish and when those fish migrate there to spawn, they are more vulnerable to capture.
“This timing typically overlaps the same period of time when lots of walleye and northern pike are in these areas too,” Breen said in the news release. "With anglers actively targeting the sport fish, especially in the springtime, the chances of catching a native fish increases dramatically. Again, correct species identification and following the new rules are great ways for anglers to help us recover this unique group of endangered and threatened fish."
The new rule comes two months after DWR officials asked anglers to kill northern pike caught in Utah Lake.