Salt Lake City — Starting Jan. 1, you can use corn as bait at any fishing water in Utah. You can also keep more lake trout at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, enjoy a two-day possession limit statewide, and have a better chance at catching big channel catfish at Cutler Reservoir.
Those changes are among several fishing changes the Utah Wildlife Board — a panel of seven citizens appointed by the governor — approved on Sept. 27. The changes will remain in effect through Dec. 31, 2020.
You can see all of the changes the board approved in the 2019–2020 Utah Fishing Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available by late November.
Fishing with corn
Until 2016, Utah was the only state in the West where corn could not be used as a fishing bait. During a survey that year, biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources polled anglers to learn if they'd like to be allowed to use corn as bait. Of the 3,210 anglers who answered the question, 70 percent favored changing the regulation and allowing corn to be used as bait.
In 2016, the Wildlife Board approved a pilot study. The study allowed anglers to use corn as bait at eight lakes and reservoirs in Utah. During that time, DWR conservation officers kept a close eye on these waters. Their biggest concern was the possibility of increased littering and anglers illegally using corn to chum for fish. After two years of study, officers are happy to report that they haven't seen any negative impact from allowing anglers to use corn as bait.
Randy Oplinger, sport fisheries coordinator for the DWR, says anglers who responded to a survey earlier this year had the same observation. "A total of 1,636 of the 4,718 anglers who responded to the survey had fished at one or more of the eight waters in the past two years," he says. "Only 3 percent of them had witnessed any kind of negative impact from allowing anglers to use corn as bait."
Starting Jan. 1, 2019, you can use corn at any fishing water in Utah.
Keep more lake trout at Flaming Gorge
Changes at Flaming Gorge Reservoir will give you more chances to help reduce a growing population of smaller lake trout. Reducing the number of smaller lake trout should help the reservoir return to its 'glory days' when its deep blue waters produced some of the largest lake trout in the country.
Members of the board approved a recommendation to increase the daily lake trout limit to 12 fish. Only one of the 12 lake trout can be over 28 inches long. (Currently, you may keep only eight lake trout at the reservoir.)
Oplinger says a growing population of smaller lake trout is causing problems for anglers. "The smaller lake trout are competing with kokanee salmon and rainbow trout for food," he says.
Oplinger says the competition is affecting both the number and size of kokanee and rainbows in the reservoir. "Kokanee and rainbows are the two fish lake trout prey on," he says. "If we can reduce the number of smaller lake trout, they'll be more kokanee and rainbows for anglers to catch and for the remaining lake trout to eat."
Oplinger says Flaming Gorge used to produce good numbers of huge lake trout. "If anglers will keep their 12-fish limit of smaller lake trout," he says, "we should see more trophy lake trout caught at the reservoir in the future."
Two-day possession limit
Some anglers who take the time to travel to Flaming Gorge and Strawberry reservoirs want to spend more than one day fishing before coming home. To give them a chance to keep more fish, board members approved a two-day possession limits at both waters. (Currently, you may not have more than one daily limit in your possession while fishing at either water.)
"With the exception of Flaming Gorge and Strawberry," Oplinger says, "two-day possession limits have been allowed at all of the fishing waters in Utah. We haven't seen any biological impact on the waters where a two-day possession limit is allowed. We're happy those who fish Flaming Gorge and Strawberry will have the same opportunity starting in 2019."
Another change the board approved could make Cutler Reservoir 'the place' to catch big channel catfish in Utah.
Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the daily catfish limit at Cutler and its tributaries will be four fish. Reducing the limit from eight fish to four fish should keep more channel cats in the reservoir and allow them to grow to a bigger size.
This article was first published on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' blog at wildlife.utah.gov.