Utah drought leads to increased bag limits for anglers
Utah wildlife managers are increasing bag limits at five state lakes and reservoirs due to drought conditions. As water levels in these lakes continue to drop, the likelihood of fish kills increases, so managers are encouraging the public to harvest more fish.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced the temporary increases Friday, July 8. The limit increases will last until September 30 and take effect immediately on Fairview Lakes, Minersville Reservoir, Otter Creek Reservoir, Vernon Reservoir and Yuba Reservoir. The rationale here, according to the DWR, is that small amounts of water heat up faster and hold less oxygen. This combination of factors stresses fish species, especially trout, causing disease, slower growth rates and eventually leading to fish kills.
“The best management action we can take in these water bodies is to reduce the number of fish in these waters. This is because when water levels are low, we are more likely to sustain a fishery that has fewer fish than one that has a lot,” said Randy Oplinger, Sport Fish Division Coordinator. “We try, as much as possible, to continue to provide a good fishing experience for anglers, until we believe that the water levels will reach a critical level.
The ongoing drought currently affecting the West
More than 99% of Utah has experienced severe drought conditions for several months, according to the US Drought Monitor. About 83% of the state is experiencing severe drought, with 7.7% experiencing exceptional drought. Those conditions aren’t just a problem for Utah, either. The entire West has experienced drought conditions for the past two to three years, and these dry conditions are also causing changes in hunting regulations.
Statewide, all reservoirs in Utah are 59% capacity. But the bodies of water specifically mentioned in the July 8 DWR statement are much lower. Otter Creek Reservoir is around 25% capacity and Yuba Reservoir hovers around 12%.
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Increases in catch limits vary by water body. The DWR exceeded the daily limit at Fairview Lakes by up to eight trout and six wipers. Minersville Reservoir has had its daily trout limit increased to four with no size or bait restrictions, and wiper limits have been set at three. Otter Creek Reservoir has a new daily limit of eight trout and six wipers. Vernon Reservoir has a new daily limit of eight trout. The total daily limit at Yuba Reservoir is 20 fish, which can be a mix of catfish, pike, muskellunge, trout, walleye, and wipers.
This increase in fish catch limits comes after a similar action in April. This increase in limits has impacted Joe Lay Reservoir, North Creek, North Creek Reservoir and Spring Lake. Utah officials reiterated the importance of fishing at Spring Lake. The lake will be drained so that the Town of Payson can carry out some much needed infrastructure projects. In the meantime, anglers can still fish there and are encouraged to harvest what they catch.