Usually after an outing at the lake, if no fish were caught, it would be a downer.
Not for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. That was the goal.
Their Metallica-themed mission at the Saratoga Lake was to “Kill ‘Em All.” And they succeeded.
The goal was to kill every living thing because illegally-stocked yellow perch had overtaken the lake.
So Game and Fish personnel dumped seven tons of rotenone (poison) into the lake in mid-September. When they came back a month later, everything was dead.
“It went well. We did not catch any fish, which is awesome,” said Bobby Compton, supervisor of the Laramie Region Fisheries.
Compton said after a total of 10 days without any fish caught in numerous gill nets, biologists said the project was complete.
Dead Fish Everywhere
For months leading up to the extermination, it was a free-for-all on the lake – within reason. Dynamite and other explosives were not allowed.
But people could fish all day and keep everything they caught.
It’s a good thing, because there were a lot of fish left over.
“It was a huge effort to pick up all the dead fish and dispose of them,” Compton said. “We estimate there were more than 10,000 fish, and about 70% were white suckers, with most of them 15 to 20 inches.”
Although white suckers may not be the most popular fish for food, they are actually pretty good to eat.
“You gotta cook ’em up within 24 hours of catching them, that’s the secret,” said noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich. “Heck, put ’em in a blender, fry ’em up and make white sucker chowder with them. It’s actually a specialty of mine.”
Ulrich will have to fish elsewhere to find them as the lake is essentially dead now and officials don’t want those fish back.
About 20% of the remaining dead fish were trout while 10% were yellow perch.
“There were a lot more perch than we anticipated being in the lake, and the population was growing,” Compton said.
As for the future of the lake, Game and Fish plans to restock it with trout in the spring.
The goal is to stock 6,500 catchable (9-inch) rainbow trout, 1,500 7-inch brown trout and 2,500 fingerling tiger trout.
At 3 to 6 inches of growth per year, the brown trout will grow to catchable size by fall 2023.
There also are plans to add some larger broodstock trout in the fall of 2023 prior to the ice fishing derby.