SALT LAKE CITY — Utah wildlife officials announced Wednesday they are increasing the number of fish people can catch at 10 different bodies of water across the state, citing anticipated lower water levels due to the ongoing statewide drought.
The emergency changes, which were approved by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Tuesday night, were made in state's 2021 fishing regulations guidebook. While all parts of the state are currently experiencing drought conditions, nine of the 10 bodies of water at the center of the changes are located in southern or central Utah, where drought conditions are considered extreme and exceptional by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The new fishing limits approved at:
- Blacksmith Fork River (Cache County): Daily limit increased to eight trout from the Nibley Diversion downstream to the confluence with the Logan River.
- Forsyth Reservoir (Sevier County): Daily limit to eight trout.
- Gunlock Reservoir (Washington County): Daily limit increased to 12 largemouth bass with no size restrictions. The limit on bluegill and black crappie is also removed.
- Koosharem Reservoir (Sevier County): Daily limit increased to eight trout.
- Lower Enterprise Reservoir (Washington County): Daily limited increased to 12 smallmouth bass and eight trout.
- Otter Creek Reservoir (Piute County): Daily limit increased to 12 smallmouth bass, eight trout and six wiper.
- Tropic Reservoir (Garfield County): Daily limit increased to eight trout.
- Upper Enterprise Reservoir (Washington County): Daily limit increased to 12 smallmouth bass and eight trout.
- Wide Hollow Reservoir (Garfield County): Daily limit increased to eight trout.
- Yuba Reservoir (Juab and Sanpete counties): Daily limit increased to 20 total fish total among channel catfish, northern pike, any species of trout, tiger muskie, walleye and wiper. There are also no size restrictions to any of the listed species.
The changes went into effect immediately and will remain in place through the end of October, according to DWR spokeswoman Faith Heaton Jolley. The expected lower water levels have a biological impact on fish, which is what prompted the emergency changes.
Randy Oplinger, the division's sportfish coordinator, explained that lower water levels from the drought heat up the water in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams, and warmer water holds less oxygen in it for fish that need it. Low levels of oxygen are tied to poor growth and disease, which can be fatal in some cases.
The move this week helps reduce the risk of fish die-off in the bodies of water where levels are expected to be below normal.
Jolley said fewer fish will be stocked this year in areas with below-average water levels. The agency will instead reallocate fish that would have been stocked in the 10 listed bodies of water to other areas in the state not as impacted by water levels.
She recommended that anglers who like to fish at the 10 identified bodies of water should consider doing it sooner than later as water levels continue to fall. Those who like to fish from a boat are encouraged to call the agency that oversees a particular reservoir ahead of time to make sure a boat ramp is still open.
"If you like to eat fish and you want to catch a lot, these are great waterbodies to hit up right now," she said. "We are recommending that people go earlier in the summer before the water levels drop a lot. It'll make access easier."
Other bodies of water are also expected to see declines in water levels this summer; however, state wildlife officials said they are confident it won't completely eliminate fishing in Utah this year.
"Despite low water levels in some lakes, fishing will be very good in a lot of places this summer," Oplinger said in a statement. "The number of waters where we are expecting drought impacts is very small, and we anticipate that the majority of waterbodies, including the major fisheries in the state, won't be affected."
Earlier this month, state wildlife biologists asked anglers to be careful while handling fish this summer over similar water level and oxygen concerns. Oplinger asked people who catch fish to make sure they release a fish back as quickly as possible and in an area with deeper water.
He added that trout, catfish, bluegill and bass are all fish species that are vulnerable to warm and stagnant conditions.
Contributing: Dan Bammes, KSL NewsRadio