BRIGHAM CITY -- A group that has considerable influence over wildlife management policy in Utah is meeting tonight to discuss some proposed changes to the state's fishing regulations, and the public is encouraged to attend and provide input.
Under a new proposal, anglers would be allowed to have more fish in their freezers next year -- and might not be required to eat fish they catch at waters that have catch-and-kill regulations.
Those changes are among several that Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are proposing for Utah's 2014 fishing season.
The biggest change would be an increase in the number of fish an angler can have in his or her possession at any given time.
Currently, the daily bag limit and the possession limit are the same. For example, if you catch four trout (the daily limit at most waters in Utah) and then put them in your freezer at home, you can't catch and keep any more trout until you've eaten at least one of the fish.
If you eat one fish, you can go out and catch one more. If you eat two fish, you can go out and catch two more. If you eat all four fish, you can go out and catch another four-trout limit.
For 2014, DWR biologists are recommending that the possession limit be twice the daily limit at most of Utah's fishing waters.
Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR, said increasing the possession limit might encourage anglers to travel and fish waters that are farther from their homes.
"Having a possession limit that's twice the daily bag limit would allow you to stay an extra day and fish," Cushing said. "You could catch your daily limit one day, and then go out the next day and catch one more limit. That extra day of fishing might be the incentive you need to travel to some distant waters to fish."
The increase in the possession limit would not apply at Strawberry or Flaming Gorge reservoirs, which are two of Utah's most prized fisheries.
The proposed regulation changes would also remove the requirement that anglers eat fish they catch at catch-and-kill waters.
A total of 10 waters in Utah have catch-and-kill regulations, which help biologists better control fish that have been stocked into waters illegally. The regulations require anglers to kill certain species of fish if they catch them in the designated waters.
Currently, Utah also has a regulation that does not allow fish to be wasted.
"You must eat the fish you keep," Cushing said.
Now, biologists are recommending that the wasting rule be eliminated at catch-and-kill waters. They're also recommending that the wasting rule not apply to common carp -- an invasive species that has caused major problems at waters such as Utah Lake -- no matter where in the state the carp were caught.
Cushing still encourages people to eat the fish they catch under catch-and-kill rules, "but we don't want to require anglers to consume fish that the law forces them to kill," he said. "This change would allow you to decide for yourself whether you want to eat the fish."
Under the proposal, those who decide not to eat the fish they catch could kill it and return it to the water, or dispose of it in a fish-cleaning station, a garbage can, a landfill or a dumpster.
A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. tonight at Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West. The DWR's Northern Regional Advisory Council will discuss the proposed changes and take comments from anyone interested in sharing his or her opinions on the issue.
The council doesn't have final say on the matter, but RAC chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board, which will meet in Salt Lake City on Nov. 7 to approve rules for Utah's 2014 fishing season.
Cushing encourages the public to attend the regional meeting and share ideas.
"Utah's fishing waters belong to you," he said. "We want you to speak up, and let us know what you think about the job we're doing and our ideas for 2014."