Keep fish, make fishing better at two northeastern Utah waters.
VERNAL — You can make fishing better at Starvation Reservoir by keeping the small walleye you catch. And you can do the same thing at Red Fleet Reservoir by keeping the yellow perch you catch.
Both waters are in northeastern Utah. Biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources are asking anglers to keep these fish after the biologists used small mesh nets to catch fish at the reservoirs this summer. These netting surveys allow biologists to see how the food base in a reservoir is doing.
“When we do these nettings,” says Natalie Boren, regional fisheries biologist with the DWR, “we want to see many more prey fish than predators. It takes lots of prey fish to produce a stable and healthy population of predators.”
Yellow perch are one of the main items predators in Starvation eat. And biologists found very few of them in their nets this summer.
Boren says yellow perch numbers were down in 2016 and again this year. “On the flip side,” she says, “we saw many small walleye. The small walleye are a product of the numerous 24-inch and longer walleye we saw in the reservoir in 2015.
“Seeing few yellow perch in our nets, but numerous walleye, makes us nervous about the future of the fishery,” she says.
Boren says you can help by keeping the small 10- to 14-inch walleye you catch, up to the daily limit of 10.
“Reducing the number of smaller walleye will help reduce competition for food among the walleye and improve the health of the walleye into the future,” she says. “We’ve been trying to bolster the prey base at Starvation by transferring adult yellow perch and crappie to the reservoir. We’ll continue doing these transfers, but we definitely need anglers to help by keeping the smaller walleye they catch.”
Boren says Red Fleet Reservoir is a different story. The reservoir was treated with rotenone in October 2015, so the fishery is quite young. After the treatment, biologists stocked several different fish species into the reservoir. Surveys this summer showed yellow perch, which spawned in the reservoir in 2016, are the most numerous. The perch have also grown to a decent size. Unfortunately, they’re too large for the small walleye in the reservoir to eat.
Boren is asking anglers to start targeting yellow perch at Red Fleet, especially during the ice fishing season this winter. The yellow perch limit is 50 perch a day.
“For our part,” she says, “we’ll be stocking smaller fish, including fathead minnow, to try to feed these smaller walleye until they’re large enough to target the yellow perch.”
Trina Hedrick, regional aquatics manager for the DWR, realizes biologists are asking anglers to do different things: remove predators at Starvation and remove prey at Red Fleet.
“Anglers need to understand that although we’re asking them to do things a little differently at each reservoir, the reasons are based on our netting results,” she says. “We can’t treat every reservoir the same. We have different fisheries and different situations at each, and our sampling shows this. Keeping smaller walleye at Starvation, and yellow perch, no matter their size at Red Fleet, is the key to improving fishing at both waters.”
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