SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah's drought situation worsens and that impacts statewide water levels, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Thursday increased the fishing limits at all 57 of its community ponds and five other Utah waterbodies just as they did at 10 places earlier this year.
Effective immediately, anglers will be allowed to catch two additional trout at all 57 community ponds in the state. With the change, people can catch four fish daily as long as at least two of the fish are trout. That rule will remain in effect through the end of August.
The division also announced the following changes to fishing limits that went into effect Thursday and will remain in effect through Oct. 31:
- Lower Bowns Reservoir (Garfield County): New limit is eight trout per day.
- Middle Kents Lake (Beaver County): New limit is eight trout per day.
- Minersville Reservoir (Beaver County): Restrictions on bait and the size of trout you can keep are removed.
- Puffer Lake (Beaver County): New limit is eight trout per day.
- Vernon Reservoir (Tooele County): New limit is eight trout per day.
The division's announcement came as the U.S. Drought Monitor released its weekly report, which showed conditions hadn't improved even after a series of storms last week. It lists 65.2% of the state remains in the "exceptional" drought category but 98% of the state is now considered in "extreme" drought, which is a jump from 92.5% last week. In all, about 99.9% of Utah is now in at least a "severe" drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The changes that the DWR announced are related to low water levels and the impact that might have on fish. For example, state biologists expect water temperatures at community ponds will "exceed the maximum temperature tolerated by trout" over the next two months, said Randy Oplinger, DWR's sportfish coordinator.
"The intent of this regulation change is to provide anglers the opportunity to harvest and use additional fish before any potential fish loss," he said, in a statement Thursday.
A list of all 57 community ponds can be found here.
That's essentially the same reason behind the five other Utah waterbodies included in the update Thursday and the 10 included in late May. Oplinger explained at that time that warmer water holds less oxygen that fish need to survive and thrive. Low levels of oxygen are tied to poor growth and disease, which can be fatal in some cases.
State biologists also recommended that anglers be careful while handling fish this summer because of low water levels and oxygen concerns. They ask that anglers release fish back as quickly as possible and in areas with deeper water.