Wyo Game And Fish Considering Unlimited Trout Fishing At Saratoga Lake Before Killing All Fish

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is considering an emergency regulation that would allow people to take unlimited advantage of the trout and yellow perch in Saratoga Lake before a fish kill scheduled for this fall.

Ellen Fike

June 16, 20224 min read

Cj box fish 5 18 22 scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

In the angling world, ‘catch-and-release’ is a common practice as it allows for the sport of fishing to occur while keeping fish populations at a sustainable level.

The opposite of ‘catch-and-release,’ call it ‘catch-and-keep-every-fish-possible,’ may happen at Saratoga Lake later this year if a proposed special regulation is approved by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Gov. Mark Gordon.

The Game and Fish Department recently announced it would kill all the fish in Saratoga Lake because of the illegal introduction of yellow perch. The decision forced the cancelation of Saratoga’s annual Ice Fishing Derby because there will be no more life fish in the lake.

However, a Game and Fish Department fisheries biologist suggested at a public meeting that the department first allow people to fish the lake — and keep as many fish as they want.

What this could mean for the public is unlimited fishing at the lake. An angling jackpot. A fishing fiesta. Yee-haw.

Not Allowed Yet

Currently, Wyoming regulations allow anglers at the lake to keep six trout per day.

Department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the emergency regulation has not yet been signed by Gordon, who must authorize this move, but once it is, unlimited fishing will be allowed.

The fish will be poisoned using “rotenone” at the lake in mid-September, so anglers would have at least two months to fish for trout and yellow perch to their stomach’s delight. There are rainbow, tiger and brown trout in the lake.

The perch are actually not native to the lake and are the reason the lake’s population must be wiped out.

“Last summer, we discovered [yellow] perch in the lake during routine university sampling,” Alan Osterland, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s fisheries chief, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “We manage that as a trout fishery, so having perch so high up in the system could be a problem for many reasons.”

Osterland said the plan is to restock the lake with trout next summer.

The fish kill has caused the cancellation of the popular and long-running Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby, which was set to celebrate its 40th year in 2023. However, it is planned to return in 2024, without yellow perch in the water.

C.J. Box

The fishing derby was started in the 1980s by Wyoming author C.J. Box, who has since become a household name for his series of Joe Pickett and Cassie Dewell novels.

“The chamber of commerce didn’t have any money, so … C.J. started the fishing derby,” former legislator and fourth-generation Wyomingite Teense Willford told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Willford said that back in the early days of the derby, the organizers would do silly things such as give out prizes for the best “hard luck” story or send out official invitations to famous people, such as Prince Charles and Princess Diana or U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, to serve as the “king” or “queen” of the derby.

While none of the invited celebrities ever attended the derby, Willford believes if they had, the Saratoga community would have shown them a good time.

Osterland said the department is still investigating who was involved in stocking the lake with the illegal yellow perch, but he believes it is someone who enjoyed fishing for perch and wanted to do it locally.

“Stocking” could be a strong word, however, as Osterland said the person could have brought in as few as two yellow perch and the fish mate quickly and at a young age.

This is not the first time the department has had to treat Saratoga Lake for illegally stocked fish, but Osterland said it has been many years since this last occurred.

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Ellen Fike