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Unlimited Fishing With No Catch Limits Allowed At Saratoga Lake

in Fishing/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Unlimited fishing will be temporarily allowed at Saratoga Lake in advance of plans to kill all of the lake’s fish, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced on Wednesday.

The creel and possession limits were lifted Wednesday due to the department’s plans to chemically treat the lake in September, killing any fish left in the water.

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

Earlier this month, the Game and Fish Department 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 live fish in the lake by January.

The fish will be poisoned using “rotenone” at the lake in mid-September, so anglers 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 this month. “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.

Although 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, the event is planned to return in 2024 without yellow perch in the water.

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.

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

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

in Wyoming Game and Fish/Fishing/News
21084

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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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Rock Springs Angler Catches Gigantic 44-Inch Lake Trout At Flaming Gorge

in Fishing/News
8947

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Now that’s a fish!

Summer and fall may have the reputation in Wyoming as prime fishing season but don’t tell that to Rock Springs fisherman Shane Dubois.

The professional fishing guide showed off his talents last week when he caught a gargantuan lake trout at Flaming Gorge.

“Damn, did you put a saddle on that beast?” asked one of his friends on Facebook.

“I thought about it,” Dubois said. “All I could do to just hold it with my elbows at my side for a decent pic.”

“That must have felt like you were hauling in a piano!” another friend wrote.

The monstrous fish looks about as large as Dubois. 

In reality, the fish measured 44 inches long and weighed 39 pounds.

A record? Nope. The record is 48 inches long and 50 pounds. It was caught in 1995, also at Flaming Gorge

Maybe it’s the same fish. After all, DuBois said he safely released this one back to the reservoir. 

People lose height as they grow older. Maybe fish do too. And he could have gone on a diet.

Regardless, this is nothing new for DuBois. His Facebook page is filled with gigantic monster fish he’s nabbed over the years. Some fish so large that two people are needed to hold them up.

Interested in catching gigantic, prehistoric monsters like Shane? He gives out free fishing tips on his numerous Facebook Live chats.

Nice job, Mr. DuBois!

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Fly Tying: Ugly Bug Fly Shop Hosts Second Annual “Great Bug Battle”

in Travel
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Ice may still cover many of Wyoming’s fishable waters, but that doesn’t mean the state’s fly fishermen can’t get a jump start on the year with a little practice tying flies.

And that’s just what the organizers of this year’s Great Bug Battle in Casper are offering up.

The Great Bug Battle, entering its second year, gives fly tyers a chance to compete in what organizers describe as an “Iron Chef” type of contest, where competitors will be asked to tie flies using unusual materials and under interesting situations.

One of last year’s competitions saw an estimated 30 tyers using materials from a dollar store to make flies, said Corey Lincoln, manager of The Ugly Bug Fly Shop, the Casper store that organizes the contest.

“We just bought a bunch of stuff from a dollar store, threw out out there on the table and they used stuff out of there to tie flies,” he said. “We don’t do it to be serious, we just want the time to get together and have some fun with it.”

The event will be held beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at Casper’s Frontier Brewery, where those attending will be able to partake in beer brewed specially for the occasion.

The night will see fly tyers taking part in five or six different competitions, Lincoln said, with Ugly Bug owner Blake Jackson setting the terms of the contests.

Winners will walk away with promotional materials provided by several different companies, such as fly boxes, a waterproof duffel bag and a reel.

Attendees, including those who just show up watch the action, will also be able to bid on an original piece of artwork by Ty Hallock, a fishing guide known for his one-of-a-kind drawings of wildlife using Sharpies.

Money raised through the auction will be donated to “Casting for a Cause,” an organization that arranges fishing trips for women with breast cancer.

Last year, some 30 to 40 people turned out to watch the competition and Lincoln said he was hoping for a similar turnout this year.

There is no entry fee for the contest or to watch.

“Just come, tip your bartender, drink some beer and have a good time,” Lincoln said.

For more information on the Great Bug Battle, visit the Casper Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website at or see Ugly Bug’s Facebook page.

Hunting with Heroes brings disabled veterans together for healing, outdoor recreation

in News/Community/military
Hunting with Heroes
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

War is hell, but returning to civilian life can be equally daunting for many military veterans, especially those whose wounds complicate the reintegration process.

Hunting with Heroes seeks to provide disabled veterans an opportunity to heal and re-calibrate in a familiar environment with like-minded people, co-founder Dan Currah said.

“We found very quickly that the hunts were therapeutic for those veterans coming back,” explained Currah, a former U.S. Army signal corps officer. “We didn’t do that as Vietnam veterans. We didn’t associate with other veterans. I think there was a social stigma attached to our service, and for the most part, we just came home and tried to forget it.”

Founded in 2013 by Currah and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom veteran Colton Sasser, the Wyoming-based, non-profit organization uses donated game licenses to guide hunts throughout Wyoming. 

Sasser said the experience can be a means for veterans to seize some semblance of normalcy and routine after their world was seemingly upended.

“Some of the best therapy I’ve ever got was hunting or fishing,” he reminisced. “Being out there alone with your thoughts, focused on the task at hand. But, this seems different. It’s more about the camaraderie. The hunting truly is the bonus. It’s the cherry on top.”

From the ashes

While escorting an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team through Afghanistan in 2012, Sasser’s vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.

“We hit that sucker, and it instantly killed my squad leader,” recalled Sasser, who served as an U.S. Army infantryman. “The truck was upside down, and I woke up and knew it was bad.”

The events directly following the attack remain hazy for Sasser, who blacked out several times during the next weeks. But the damage was permanent — traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a fused spine and an amputated leg.

Months later while recovering at Fort Sam Houston, a Casper newspaper ran a story about Sasser, a Casper native. Currah, also a Casper native, was living in Texas at the time, but kept up on Wyoming news and read Sasser’s story.

After checking around, Currah and his wife discovered they knew Sasser’s parents from their high school days, so the Currahs asked to visit Sasser in the hospital.

“His dad told me he was off on the weekends with nothing to do,” Currah said. “He’s an avid hunter, and I knew some guys that were doing hog hunts, so we lined him up with some hunts.” 

Sasser said getting away from base was great, but it reminded him how much he missed hunting in Wyoming.

Once medically retired from the military, Sasser returned home and the duo started planning expeditions to help other veterans. 

“(Currah) and I just started talking about it over coffee,” he said. “I knew getting tags would be the hardest thing, because how do you plan a hunt when you don’t know when and where people will draw tags.”

Soon after cementing plans to move forward with the organization, Sasser learned about a Wyoming Game and Fish Department program which allowed people to purchase tags and donate them for re-issuance to disabled veterans and people with permanent disabilities who use wheelchairs.

“The first year we were only planning on doing 10 hunts,” he said. “We ended up doing 17, so it was a success from the outset.” 

In 2018, Hunting with Heroes hosted 230 different hunts and since 2013, Sasser guessed they’ve completed more than 1,000.

To be eligible, applicants must be 50 percent or more disabled with a service-connected disability, and they can apply through the group’s website, www.HuntingWithHeroes.org. The program is open to applicants from around the country, and Sasser said many participants come from out-of-state.

Welcome home

Diagnosed with cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam, Ed Klaput, a retired U.S. Army colonel, sought respite in the solace of the hunt.

“I’ve been undergoing chemo for the last three years, and I’ve been feeling better,” he said. “So, I wanted to get back to hunting elk.”

Klaput lives in Virginia, and without residency, he didn’t have much hope of scoring an elk tag anywhere along the continental divide. While serving, Klaput was stationed in Colorado, and in the late 1990s, he owned a cabin in Wapiti, so he was fond of hunting elk in Rockies. During his time in Wyoming, he became friends with author and former “Outdoor Life” editor Jim Zumbo. Klaput reached out to his friend for ideas about how to get back into the field.

“Zumbo told me about Hunting with Heroes,” he said. “I’d heard of groups like these, but I’d never gone with one.”

In October, Klaput flew out to join Zumbo, Currah and Sasser on an elk and antelope hunt near Rock Springs.

“We went out in the morning, and we weren’t there for too long before we spotted a bull elk,” Klaput remembered. “I lined up my sights, and took him down with a single lung shot. A little later, I got a buck antelope — again with a single lung shot.”

Even among of military-trained shooters and avid hunters, the marksmanship was impressive.

“They now call me Hawkeye, or Hawkeyes, I don’t know which,” Klaput said, chuckling.

Once home, his wife noticed an immediate change in his demeanor.

“She said, ‘You look so good. You’re cured!’” Klaput explained. “It took me out of a definite malaise from depression and the chemo treatments.” 

It wasn’t just the hunt and reconnecting with old friends that pulled the colonel out of his funk. He said Wyoming, its residents and the gratitude shown by tag donors, private land owners and volunteer guides all combined to create the reception Klaput never received on his trip home from Vietnam.

“I can’t put it in words — I could probably put it in tears — but not words,” he said quietly. “The treatment these vets have received from this group and the people of Wyoming is a therapy in and of itself. After 50 years, I felt like I finally received the ‘Welcome home’ we deserved.”

Learn about Bighorn Canyon NRA during “Junior Ranger Day”

in Travel
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Junior Ranger Day this weekend
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By Cowboy State Daily

People interested in learning more about the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area should visit the recreation area near Lovell this weekend for “Junior Ranger Day.”

The day is filled with activities designed to teach kids and adults about the activities available to them in the park, said Todd Johnson, a park ranger and visual information specialist for the recreation area.

“It’s to get them to experience what the park is all about,” he said. “We have different activities for them. We have developed ‘junior ranger’ booklets and they get stamps in their booklets as they finish different activities.”

The celebration is part of National Park Week, observed April 20 through 28. Part of that observation nationally is “Junior Ranger Day,” Johnson said, although each park or recreation area is allowed to set its own activities and schedule for the day.

“It’s meant to help you better understand the individual park that you’re visiting,” he said.

Activities available during Saturday’s event at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area will include fishing, geology and art, Johnson said. Participants will also be encouraged at one station to use a camera to take some photographs that they will then be able to post on social media.

Once the booklets are filled with stamps, participants can turn them in at the Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center to receive a National Park Week Junior Ranger badge.

While the activities are largely aimed at children, Johnson said it is not unusual to see adults visiting activity stations as well.

“Last year we had some women who just wanted to go ahead and participate, which is fantastic,” he said. “It’s a popular thing for adults to do as well, because they learn a lot.”

For more information, call the recreation area at (307) 548-5406.

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