VERNAL — Those planning to fish at two popular places in northeastern Utah are being told to release any bluegill fish they might catch.
On Thursday, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced an “emergency change” to its 2019 Utah Fishing Guidebook by instituting a catch-and-release policy on all bluegill at Steinaker Reservoir and Pelican Lake. The announcement comes a year after DWR restocked fish in both places.
Steinaker Reservoir was drained for dam repairs in 2018 and Pelican Lake underwent rotenone treatment last year to improve bluegill numbers. Rotenone is a substance that comes from tropical plant roots in the bean family. It’s not dangerous to people, pets or wildlife, but it’s poisonous to fish and thus used by biologists to treat streams and reservoirs. Last fall, officials dumped the substance in Pelican Lake to kill carp and goldfish that had helped put bluegill numbers in decline.
The fish were reintroduced after each project. As of Thursday, there were about 700 adult bluegill fish in Steinaker Reservoir and about 2,700 in Pelican Lake, according to state wildlife officials.
In a statement, DWR regional sportfish biologist Natalie Boren said the decision of issuing this catch-and-release policy is to help the reproduction of the species in both locations.
“Given this species' schooling nature and how much anglers love to harvest panfish, we feel the need to protect these young fish until more bluegill have grown to a catchable size and are able to reproduce,” she said.
DWR officials recommend anglers who catch the species handle the fish with care and not drop them on the ground or ice, gently remove the hook with needle-nose pliers or forceps, cut a line instead of removing a hook that is deep into the fish, and to not catch bluegill off their spawning beds during spring.
State wildlife officials say the change will remain in effect through Dec. 31, 2020.