Utah Division of Wildlife Resources asks anglers to help control fish populations

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The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is asking fishermen to help control the populations of native and non-native fish species in Utah’s Green River. It requests that fishermen to catch and kill any burbot, northern pike, smallmouth bass or walleye caught because of their negative impact on the river’s fish population.

Matt Breen, native aquatic species project leader with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said in a press release, “Harvest of these four nonnative predators: burbot, northern Pike, smallmouth bass or walleye; is mandatory, not optional. These fish cannot be released alive. They must be killed immediately.”

Photo courtesy of Mike Breen
This Colorado pikeminnow does not have teeth. The Colorado pikeminnow is an endangered species and must be released upon catch. (Mike Breen)

Over the past few years the Green River has become a popular fishing destination due to its high volume of non-native prize fish. “With anglers actively targeting the sport fish, especially in the springtime, the chances of catching a native fish increases dramatically,” Breen said.

Bonytail chub, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and humpback chub have all become endangered species over the past few years as a result of overfishing and an increased population of non-native predatory fish, and the bluehead sucker, flannelmouth sucker and roundtail chub have been listed as threatened. These fish are illegal to pull from the river. Conservation efforts have been extensive over the past few years, but it all comes down to the help and discipline of local fishermen to keep the populations under control.

Green River is not the only area to experience the devastating effects that these nonnative species can have on the river’s supply. The Yuba Reservoir in Central Utah is experiencing similar effects. “They used to have a ton of perch and other kinds of native fish up at Yuba Luke, but once the Northern pike got in there, along with the white bass, they wiped them out,” said Blake Rindlisbacher, a fishing expert at Sportsmen’s Warehouse. “The pike are great for fishermen because of their size, but they kill everything else”.

photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
This burbot is identified by the single chin whisker and the teeth on the upper and lower jaw. Anglers must kill every burbot that is caught. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

Breen said the easiest ways to spot the difference is by looking at the mouth and the fins of the fish. Non-native fish have teeth and spiny fins, while native species do not. State and federal wildlife biologists are working hard to maintain the fish populations in the river. “We can’t do it on our own. If you’re an angler, we need your help,” Breen said.

This is the second time in the last two years that the Department of Wildlife Resources has asked for help in maintaining fish populations. In 2013 the DWR asked for help in catching and killing northern pike, smallmouth bass and walleye.

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