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Lake trout

Stuart Hepworth

Active Member
Just throwing in some perspective and food for thought. While I see the advantage of releasing for "trophy" fishing to the individual who catches it, the fish itself can be damaged overtime with repeated boating/handling. I say this from experience on the frying pan river. I have caught many many fish there, even ones in the 10+ pound range and there are very few that aren't beat to hell. Between the foul hooking and poor handling they begin to have skin sluff off from infection.

I would hate for an old mule like that Laker to suffer the same life of some of those trout. I understand foul hooking is unlikely for lake trout but poor handling is so common any more its painful. There are a few scientific studies that show catch and release results in a range of 15% to 20% mortality rate due to poor handling and stress. A large fish like that is going to fight for a long time and the longer the fight the higher its chance for mortality.

off topic but similar are the guys who release kokanee later in the year, most of those fish are not going to make it once they rise in temperature.



Lake trout coming from depths would also probably experience higher mortality rates. The thing for me is I see a potential for more big fish with fewer lake trout in the reservoir. I would also suspect that healthier fish become mature and reproduce later than unhealthy fish exacerbating the problem with too many lake trout. To me, decreasing overall lake trout numbers, increasing rainbow trout and kokanee numbers, is win-win for anglers because trout growth rates should increase and more trophy fish become available. Those who enjoy simply catching more fish would also have more put-and-take rainbow trout available in the creel (which I would assume are easier to catch for most anglers).
 

svivian

Well-Known Member
Lake trout coming from depths would also probably experience higher mortality rates. The thing for me is I see a potential for more big fish with fewer lake trout in the reservoir. I would also suspect that healthier fish become mature and reproduce later than unhealthy fish exacerbating the problem with too many lake trout. To me, decreasing overall lake trout numbers, increasing rainbow trout and kokanee numbers, is win-win for anglers because trout growth rates should increase and more trophy fish become available. Those who enjoy simply catching more fish would also have more put-and-take rainbow trout available in the creel (which I would assume are easier to catch for most anglers).
Agreed and I think that falls in line with how Idaho manages their fisheries as well as how Utah is wanting to manage. I have not done enough research on Wyoming to know their thoughts on Flaming gorge.
 

POk3s

Active Member
I guess I believe that “some of them” are, in fact harvested as we see a handful taken home every year that people keep, and then quickly get bashed and belittled on social media lol. I can’t say I LIKE to see those big fish kept, but it’s well within a person’s right and I’m happy for them. Nobody is keeping a trophy lake trout with a frown on their face! They’ve got big plans for that fish and I’m glad. My own opinion obviously and it seems to not be the norm judging by the crazy stuff I’ve seen online spoken to these people.

Some are also lost to mortality like mentioned above. These trophy fish are in fact being killed, no doubt about that. At what rate, I’m sure Ryan has a far better grasp.

My opinion on the subject is this, once a fish reaches that trophy class, I feel they are more of a benefit to the fishery (or maybe to the fisherman), than they are “needing to be taken out to grow more of them.” They’ve already made it, let them live. That’s where my head is at. If yours is not then the regulation lets you keep it. No problem with me.

As for the small ones, yes absolutely. Keep them all. I think I have kept over 95% of the lake trout under about 24” that I’ve caught since the limit on them was increased, and since I learned more about the importance of keeping them. I know the regulation is “less than 28” but those 24-28” fish taste quite “strong” and sometimes can be upwards of 13 lbs. even on the small end they’re over 5 lbs and white big for table fare.

We must be bored…talking lake trout on a lake Powell forum 😂 . However, while we’re here I’d be interested in hearing @Ryno ‘s thoughts on if it’s beneficial to the fishery to keep a few of those big fish. Also has a regulation ever been brought up about treating these smaller lake trout like the Powell striper and basically eliminating the wonton waste law on them like we’ve done with burbot? I know they taste great but after catching 12 of them a few weekends in a row, a person’s motivation to keep them starts to dwindle. It’s just human nature. I believe the “keep rates” would go way up if this was implemented.

For good measure, here’s a pic of some of those eaters from a couple springs ago. I trolled over a deep hole on the side of a break and these fish were just sitting in there. I parked over them and quickly boated 15 or so. I kept what I thought was 12, but was lucky to have miscounted on the “good end” of things and left (notice I have 11). I have no doubt I could’ve boated 15 more. One of the “good days”. They looked like crappie on my graph…

2EAAAB01-7BE7-467C-9A5D-4FBDAC320B0D.jpeg
 

Stuart Hepworth

Active Member
I think the similarities between Flaming Gorge lake trout and Lake Powell stripers is pretty clear...one difference, though, is that the stripers die from lack of a food source if prey numbers get too low. Lake trout don't experience that crash that Lake Powell sees with stripers...
 

Coho975

Well-Known Member
" Also has a regulation ever been brought up about treating these smaller lake trout like the Powell striper and basically eliminating the wonton waste law on them like we’ve done with burbot? I know they taste great but after catching 12 of them a few weekends in a row, a person’s motivation to keep them starts to dwindle. It’s just human nature. I believe the “keep rates” would go way up if this was implemented."

I couldn't agree with this more, the ones that can regularly and consistently catch them, aren't keeping them all. They are malnourished with light opaque flesh and are not good table fair. Twenty years ago that was not the case, beautiful bright orange filets on those pups. I say remove the pup limit and if the guys that only fish a couple times a year get into them, let them take all they catch. How many weekends in a row are you realistically going to put up this many poor eating fish?
 

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POk3s

Active Member
Right. While I will disagree with you on the table fare portion…they’re still trout lol. But that’s why I don’t keep any that are very big, and in the summer time they go right on ice instead of in the live well. Regardless, luckily I have family and friends that will take all the filets I’m willing tho hand out.
 

thebigcanoe

Active Member
As you see in my avatar, I am holding the biggest fish I’ve ever caught. It was 36” and 20lbs. I tried to put it back but it did not survive the trip to the surface from 100ft down. I wanted a bigger one.
I also had the wife screaming “no way in hell are you putting that back, we’re getting it mounted!” And so it is on the wall.

Later that day I had two hookups that straightened the hook. My wife said I had a snag. I said, “snags don’t swim”, as I back trolled and chased the line 1/4 mile until the hook let loose.

The lack of large schools of kokes at the Gorge is the best telling sign that there are too many lakers. And the number of smaller lakers is also a sign that they need thinning. There are times I have caught as many laker pups as kokes. While I’d rather eat the kokes, the pups are easily taken by others to eat.

The taking of larger lakers does effect those that guide on the Gorge. I’m sure the fish they catch have been caught many times before. That is how the guides make their money. But for those of us guiding ourselves, and learning to catch the bigger ones, I would prefer to bring in more 20-30lbers during a weekend than maybe hook one trophy once in a lifetime.

So what does this have to do with Lake Powell you ask? Follow the science that Wayne has laid out before us.
Harvest what is starving or stunted, to improve the fishery and the experience.
 

davew

Well-Known Member
Speaking for catch and release -- how's that transition?
Last week I was lucky enough to fish out of Cabo. The Marlin bite was on and lots of fish were being caught. I was surprised to see ( for the better in my opinion) almost all were being released. There was a time, that when you caught a fish in Mexico, it never went back in the water. You either kept it, or the guide / deck hand kept it. -----On this trip the boat Captain did not even give us the option of keeping it, his only question was " do you want a picture before we release it?"

We saw a few being kept, but as I understand from the captain, most the ones being kept were those hooked in the gills or killed from over fighting.

I do not know if the overall change in releasing most if not all of the bill fish was the reason, but basically you could catch as many as you wanted -- the numbers of fish were so plentiful. The Capitan was also unhappy with several boats that he thought were putting to much stress on the fish before releasing. Again, in my opinion that was great to see.
The largest fish we caught ( 200lbs range) took about 45 minutes to get in, and after about 20 minutes, the captain turned and chased the fish --- not because we were running out of line, but because if we just kept reeling it in, it would take to long and do damage to the fish. By chasing it, we were able to reel in most of the line, and end the fight much sooner. -- took the picture and off the fish went--- ( deck hand also removed another hook that was in the fishes mouth.)
I have to believe that by releasing all of those bill fish back into the water, there are more of them, which allowed all of the anglers to come home with great stories.

One thing I can say -- catching 2 fish was about all I could handle in a day -- We fished for 2 days, and a week later my arms still hurt.
 

Cliff

Well-Known Member
Catch and release?
Some guides below Lake Powell always release any brown trout that clients catch even with the requirement to kill
all brown trout caught in that part of the river. I've seen it done
It all comes down to personal choice- keep or release Both are viable entities.
If I could catch a limit of pups I would as I eat a lot of fish I don't think a 30 lb fish would be that good to eat but I could be wrong.
 

IRODD

Active Member
Speaking for catch and release -- how's that transition?
Last week I was lucky enough to fish out of Cabo. The Marlin bite was on and lots of fish were being caught. I was surprised to see ( for the better in my opinion) almost all were being released. There was a time, that when you caught a fish in Mexico, it never went back in the water. You either kept it, or the guide / deck hand kept it. -----On this trip the boat Captain did not even give us the option of keeping it, his only question was " do you want a picture before we release it?"

We saw a few being kept, but as I understand from the captain, most the ones being kept were those hooked in the gills or killed from over fighting.

I do not know if the overall change in releasing most if not all of the bill fish was the reason, but basically you could catch as many as you wanted -- the numbers of fish were so plentiful. The Capitan was also unhappy with several boats that he thought were putting to much stress on the fish before releasing. Again, in my opinion that was great to see.
The largest fish we caught ( 200lbs range) took about 45 minutes to get in, and after about 20 minutes, the captain turned and chased the fish --- not because we were running out of line, but because if we just kept reeling it in, it would take to long and do damage to the fish. By chasing it, we were able to reel in most of the line, and end the fight much sooner. -- took the picture and off the fish went--- ( deck hand also removed another hook that was in the fishes mouth.)
I have to believe that by releasing all of those bill fish back into the water, there are more of them, which allowed all of the anglers to come home with great stories.

One thing I can say -- catching 2 fish was about all I could handle in a day -- We fished for 2 days, and a week later my arms still hurt.
I have also been lucky enough to fish out of Cabo and it is a thrill hookig up with a good sized marlin. I've seen some monsters out on the water there. I sport fished there 4 or 5 times and once in Hawaii (skunked). Otherwise caught a lot of great tasting fish: dorado (maui), ono, wahoo, barracuda, none trophy size. On my last trip I finally got a chance at the reel with a striped marlin, 100 lbs., not bad for that species, real jumpers. It took every thing I had to get it to the boat (45 or so minutes) and I hurt. Like you, the captain was curious about what the fate of the billfish would be (not any of the other fish we caught, which we split with the crew). I told him I was going to release it and it appeared to make him very pleased.

Back in the harbor I noticed that there were very few bill fish being hung from the docks compared to what I was use to seeing. My conclusion from that, and what you experienced, is those captains (guides) figured out what worked for them to have a kind of fishery that would continue to sustain "them". There is no doubt that, as far as trophy fishing the ocean is concerned, that catch and release is working, statistictlly and anecdotally. When I first started visiting down there in the early 90's the main type of fishing boat was the small, long, narrow boats that they take people out to catch rooster fish now. They lined up at the ramp in those days, under a winch, and almost every one had a 12' plus marlin pulled out of it. Those big fish are still there, not just as many, and there are a LOT more fisherman. Let the people who use a fishery decide how best to manage it. Then people are still free to make their own choice about how they play the game with in the rules of that decision.

I jumped in on this thread pretty much when it was ending. As always I am extremely impressed with the level of intelligence and maturity I have found in this community. Everyone in this discussion has expressed their opinions and facts and individual reasoning from many points of view and no one attacked or denigrated anybody (very respectful). Thanks ya'll.
 
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Ryno

Member
I concur that putting up a limit or multiple limits of lake trout on a regular basis can be quite taxing. I set a personal goal back in early November of 2021 to harvest 100 pups (small lake trout) this winter season via the boat or ice. It's been tougher than I thought, but I'm over halfway with 54 harvested. I've had a few good days with 10-12 fish, all of which have been under 24-inches and probably averaged 18-inches. My family really enjoys consuming small lake trout, but grilling or frying them too often can get old, so I've smoked and then vacuumed sealed a lot of them for later. It's quite a bit of work but also rewarding. I commonly thaw out a package or two and make smoked fish dip for us to snack on, but also share packaged fillets with family and friends.

Like others, I typically release the bigger lake trout, and usually my cut-off is about 28 inches or 8-9 lbs. I actually prefer lake trout less than 25-inches for table fare and in my experience, bigger lake trout are fattier/oilier. Sampling has also shown fish greater than 25-inches are higher in mercury, so I prefer not to feed bigger fish to family or friends for both taste and health concerns.

Given the size of the reservoir and population in the Gorge, it doesn't hurt the population by any means to harvest some of the trophy class fish as the regulation allows. Having said that, harvest on fish greater than 28-inches is low. In our last program creel in 2013, an estimated 9,457 lake trout were harvested during the summer months when angler pressure was highest. Of those 9% were just over 28-inches, and actually averaged 28.1 inches, so anglers weren't even keeping the really big lake trout. We do periodic spot creels each year, but have another 8-month program creel scheduled for 2023 where we'll be able to determine if or how harvest tendencies have changed. Using this information will help us better adapt regulations and outreach in the future.

Hope it helps, thanks, Ryan
 

bobco

Well-Known Member
Ryno thank you for your work at the Gorge. The lake trout guys can be a little rough around the edges at times and hard to please. So from one of those guys Thanks! I spend some time at the Gorge and really enjoy it, no shortage of large lake trout from my observation. They can certainly be moody at times but that is lake trout fishing. I'm more concerned about the kokanee situation , last year was a very off year for me on the Kokes, scared that the burbots are make a real impact. How are the kokes looking forward? Over here at Blue Mesa the gill lice infestation has taken a huge toll on the kokes, sad deal,
 

Ryno

Member
Ryno thank you for your work at the Gorge. The lake trout guys can be a little rough around the edges at times and hard to please. So from one of those guys Thanks! I spend some time at the Gorge and really enjoy it, no shortage of large lake trout from my observation. They can certainly be moody at times but that is lake trout fishing. I'm more concerned about the kokanee situation , last year was a very off year for me on the Kokes, scared that the burbots are make a real impact. How are the kokes looking forward? Over here at Blue Mesa the gill lice infestation has taken a huge toll on the kokes, sad deal,
Thanks Bobco! Last summer was a tougher year for me as well. I found two issues in my Kokanee fishing experiences, and I'll note, all of my trips were in the Canyon Region from Sheep Creek down to the dam. The first is I wasn't graphing Kokanee in their traditional locations and the second was they were very inconsistent in what they wanted. For example, most of the Kokes I graphed were not in the main channel, but instead closer to shore and sometimes even in the backs of canyons. I also saw a lot of variability in lure success whether it was color or action. Having said that, I have friends that did really well and would tell me it was one of their best years. I'm still shrugging my shoulders because the catching was challenging for me.

For some background, we monitor Kokanee abundance on the Gorge using hydroacoustics, or sonar surveys. DWR has used this sampling tool since 1996, and from 1989-1995 it was used by Utah State University. We conduct this survey each year during the nights of the new moon in August and have 44 sampling transects from the Confluence down to the dam. It takes 2-nights to do the acoustic surveys, and then we go back on the third night and conduct midwater trawling to truth what we observed in the acoustic surveys. It's a lot of data to process and I'm currently analyzing the data from 2021.

From 2013 to 2018, we observed steady increases in Kokanee abundance which closely followed our increases in Kokanee stocking. In 2019-2020, we observed declines, mostly in recruitment or age-0 Kokanee (fish born or stocked that year). Stocking has remained high though, and between the 3 agencies that stock the Gorge, we've averaged 1.8 million Kokanee stocked annually from 2018-2020. In 2020, the estimate was 709K Kokanee from Age-0 to Age-2. This was about 20% below the 10-year average but still not as low as the estimates (384K in 2007) observed in the early to mid 2000s.

I've read about gill lice in Colorado and fingers crossed we don't have to deal with that at the Gorge. As you noted, Burbot predation could be a contributor, being we commonly see Kokanee in Burbot stomachs during the winter months. We've also seen Burbot consuming Kokanee eggs during the spawn which would impact natural recruitment from in-reservoir spawning fish. Lake Trout predation is an obvious contributor too and always will be. And lastly, Kokanee are naturally cyclic. We used to see population fluctuations on a 3-4 year cycle, but our increased stocking has thrown that trend off. Maybe it's getting back to a normal cycle (?), which we should be able to capture in our annual monitoring if the trend continues.

I should have this year's estimate finalized in the coming weeks, so reach out to me via email if you're interested in the results at ryanmosley@utah.gov.

Thanks for the questions too. Ryan
 
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