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WGFD: Concerns remain over Flaming Gorge Reservoir lake trout

Harvesting small lake trout will help provide for the future of fishing in Flaming Gorge. (Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Legally harvesting as many small lake trout as possible from Flaming Gorge Reservoir could improve survival chances for other species like kokanee salmon, Wyoming wildlife managers say. 

Concerns were raised during recently concluded open house meetings in the Green River Region, where anglers reported being less successful in catching specific trout species and kokanee salmon in recent years. 

Wildlife managers have wrestled with similar concerns, attributing struggling kokanee salmon and trout populations to the robust lake trout population in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Game and Fish says. 

Once lake trout reach a certain size — roughly 25 inches in length — they become formidable predators that prey primarily on other fish. In Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the species targets kokanee salmon and rainbow trout, per Game and Fish, which has recorded a recent boom in lake trout under 28 inches in length. 

Angler harvest has proved to be a successful tool that wildlife managers have and still use to reduce the populations of another problem species in Flaming Gorge Reservoir — burbot — and Game and Fish feels it could be an effective tool to address the lake trout issue if anglers demonstrate the same level of commitment to harvest lake trout as they do burbot. 

“Angler harvest has successfully reduced the population of burbot in the reservoir. The same can be true of the small lake trout if anglers pursue and harvest as many small lake trout (under 25 inches) as they legally can,” Game and Fish says. “The improved survival of kokanee and trout next spring depends on how many small lake trout anglers remove from the reservoir this winter.”

Wildlife managers have implemented certain changes geared toward increasing the success of angler harvest, including raising the creel limit to 12 fish per day and the possession limit to 24 fish total, in an attempt to get ahead of a booming lake trout population in recent years, per Game and Fish. 

“Fortunately, there are some anglers taking advantage of the liberal limits; we need more,” Game and Fish says. 

To aid in fisherman success, Game and Fish has an abundance of tools and information available on its website for how to catch lake trout, where to find them and how to prepare them in the kitchen.