Wildlife Board approves rules for 2017 and 2018 fishing seasons
Salt Lake City – You can fish with corn, at eight waters in Utah, starting Jan. 1, 2017.
At their Sept. 29 meeting, members of the Utah Wildlife Board—a panel of seven citizens appointed by the governor—approved a Division of Wildlife Resources recommendation to start a two-year pilot study focused on the use of corn as bait. At the end of the study, DWR biologists and conservation officers will decide if anglers should be allowed to continue using corn for bait.
(Before the board’s vote, Utah was the only state in the West that did not allow corn to be used for bait.)
In addition to the study, the board several changes for Utah’s 2017 and 2018 fishing seasons. They include a tweak to the smallmouth bass limit at Jordanelle Reservoir, opening tributaries at Utah Lake to fishing year round, and requiring anglers to keep and kill any walleye they catch at Echo Reservoir. All of the changes go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
You can see these changes—and other changes the board approved—in the 2017 Utah Fishing Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks by mid-November.
Corn as bait
Earlier this year, DWR biologists posted a fishing survey at the agency’s website. “Would you support the use of corn as legal bait in Utah?” is one of the questions the survey asked. A total of 3,210 people answered the question. Seventy percent of them said yes.
The pilot study that starts Jan. 1 involves eight waters. The eight waters that have been selected have kokanee salmon or common carp in them. “Corn is an effective bait for both species,” says Randy Oplinger, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR.
In 2017 and 2018, you may use corn at the following waters:
Deer Creek Reservoir
Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Oplinger says corn is a cheap and easy bait to use. “I think that’s one of the main reasons anglers wanted a chance to use it as bait in Utah,” he says.
But doesn’t corn harm fish that ingest it?
“That’s something many anglers have believed for years,” Oplinger says. “Study after study has shown that isn’t the case. Corn doesn’t harm fish.”
Some of the state’s anglers are concerned about two things, though: will allowing the use of corn lead to an increase in chumming (tossing bait in the water to attract fish) and littering?
Both activities are illegal in Utah and will remain illegal during the pilot study.
During the two-year study, biologists will work closely with DWR conservation officers to determine if allowing the use of corn has led to any negative results. “If we find that it has,” Oplinger says, “we can recommend not allowing corn as bait in 2019.”
Smallmouth bass at Jordanelle
DWR biologists brought several additional recommendations to the board. Among the ones the board approved is a change that will allow you to keep larger smallmouth bass at Jordanelle Reservoir.
Currently, you can keep up to six smallmouth bass at the reservoir southeast of Park City. But only one of the bass can be longer than 12 inches.
In 2017, the six smallmouth bass limit will remain, but the 12-inch size restriction will be gone. “We want to encourage anglers to keep smallmouth,” Oplinger says, “even fish that are over 12 inches.”
Oplinger says Jordanelle’s smallmouth bass population has gotten so large that the fish are small in size. “Most of the smallmouths are 11 inches or less in length,” he says. “Right now, trying to keep larger smallmouth in the reservoir isn’t the answer to growing bigger fish. Removing smallmouth from the reservoir, even the larger ones, is the answer.”
Removing smallmouth will provide more food for the remaining smallmouth bass, allowing them to grow larger in size. To help speed that process along, biologists stocked two predators into Jordanelle this year.
“Over the past three months,” Oplinger says, “we’ve placed tiger muskies and wipers into the reservoir. These predators should prey heavily on the smaller smallmouth, leaving more food for the remaining smallmouth to eat and grow to a larger size.”
Earlier this year, DWR biologists posted a fishing survey at the agency’s website. Eliminating the 12-inch size restriction at Jordanelle was favored by 61 percent of the 3,705 anglers who responded to a question about the change. Eleven percent of the 3,705 anglers were opposed to the change. The remaining anglers who responded to the question did not have a preference.
Utah Lake tributaries open to fishing year-round
Board members also approved some recommendations brought to it by Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife, a sportsman’s group in Utah. Opening tributaries at Utah Lake to fishing—year round—was one of the SFW proposals. Opening the tributaries to year-round fishing should give you a better chance to catch a northern pike.
In the past, the tributaries were closed to fishing from March 1 to the first Saturday in May. The closure was in place to protect walleye that spawn in the tributaries in early spring. But northern pike spawn in the tributaries at the same time.
“Northern pike were placed in Utah Lake illegally,” Oplinger says. “They pose a threat to other fish in the lake. Those fish include June sucker. June sucker are an endangered fish that are not found anywhere else in the world.”
In 2017, the tributaries will be open to fishing year round. But you must release any walleye you catch. In conjunction with opening the tributaries to year-round fishing, the board also approved a recommendation from DWR biologists that will require you to keep and kill any northern pike you catch in the tributaries. A catch-and-kill regulation for northern pike is already in place for the lake itself.
Walleye in Echo must be kept and killed
The board also approved a SFW recommendation that will require you to keep and kill any walleye you catch at Echo Reservoir in northern Utah.
Walleye were placed in Echo illegally. Biologists are concerned about the way the walleye will affect other fish in the reservoir. The new regulation will help remove some of the illegally stocked fish from the reservoir.