The daily limit of fish an angler can catch is being increased at five different lakes or reservoirs across Utah because low water levels caused by the ongoing statewide drought are starting to impact fish species yet again.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced on Friday that it is temporarily increasing the limits at:
- Fairview Lakes (Sanpete County): New daily limit is eight trout.
- Minersville Reservoir (Beaver County): New daily limit is four trout, with no size restrictions, and three wipers. A legal bait regulation has also been temporarily removed through the end of September.
- Otter Creek Reservoir (Piute County): New daily limit is eight trout and six wipers.
- Vernon Reservoir (Tooele County): New daily limit is eight trout.
- Yuba Reservoir (Juab County): New daily limit is a combined total of 20 fish. That can be a mix of channel catfish, northern pike, tiger muskie, any trout species and walleye, wiper.
All of the changes went into effect immediately on Thursday and will remain in place through Sept. 30.
Utah wildlife biologists make this change when water levels decrease because of the impact that has on water quality for fish. The water at the body of water heats up faster during the summer, reducing the levels of oxygen the fish species need. The combination of warm water and low oxygen can stress fish, cause poor growth or diseases and can be fatal, too.
"The best management action we can take at these water bodies is to reduce the number of fish in these waters. That's because when water levels are low, we are more likely to maintain a fishery that has fewer fish than one that has a lot of fish," said Randy Oplinger, the division's sportfish coordinator, in a statement Friday. "We try, whenever possible, to continue to provide a good fishing experience for anglers, up until we think that water levels will hit a critical level."
The U.S. Drought Monitor continues to list about 83% of Utah in at least extreme drought conditions, including 7.7% of the state in exceptional drought. More than 99% of the state has been in at least a severe drought for months.
Utah's reservoirs are currently at 59% capacity statewide, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources. But the reservoirs that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources selected are much lower than that. For instance, Yuba Reservoir is currently listed at 12% capacity, while Otter Creek Reservoir is only about a quarter of its entire capacity.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources made a similar adjustment to several of its lakes and reservoirs because of the drought last year. It even temporarily increased the daily limits at all 57 of its community ponds across the state. Oplinger said earlier this year that the drought would influence where his team would stock fish across the state.
"We are hopeful that anglers will catch and harvest most, if not all, of (the) stocked fish by the time water levels become so low that fish survival is impacted," he said, at the time.
Meanwhile, Utah wildlife officials also announced Friday they have extended their daily limit of fish that can be caught at the Spring Lake community pond in Utah County because of a project to repair the pond that has yet to begin. The division initially upped its fishing limits at the pond in January and then extended the temporary limit again in April. Since the project that would drain the pond is delayed, it has extended the order through the end of the year.
Anglers can catch up to eight sportfish at the pond every day through Dec. 31. Common carp do not count toward the daily limit.