Anglers may notice cuts in fish stocking by 2015

2013-03-28T05:00:00Z Anglers may notice cuts in fish stocking by 2015By CHRISTINE PETERSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

If your average catch in Pathfinder Reservoir is four rainbow trout in half of a day, expect to start catching three.

The same goes for Alcova, Seminoe and Boysen reservoirs, among others.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is cutting about 25 percent of the fish it normally stocks from more than 140 Wyoming waters. The cuts are in response to a funding shortfall after the Wyoming State Legislature decided not to raise license fees this year.

No one will likely notice a change in the large waters in 2014, said Mark Fowden, chief of fisheries for the department. But by 2015, fish won’t be as plentiful. More cuts have not been proposed nor approved, but the possibility has local anglers worried.

“We would eventually be fished out,” said John Blyth, owner of Four Seasons Anglers in Laramie. The Laramie plains lakes depend exclusively on yearly fish stocking and cuts could be more prominent there and in other small lakes and reservoirs. The first reduction won’t permanently hurt the fisheries, but they could if reductions continue, he said.

“It would have a great impact on business and fishing in the area.”

Game and Fish’s fish culture department raises more than four million of fish each year to be placed in Wyoming’s lakes and rivers. From large reservoirs like Flaming Gorge to alpine lakes high in the Big Horn Mountains, few Wyoming lakes and reservoirs don’t receive supplemental fish.

The department keeps brood stocks -- adult fish it can breed -- of 18 types or strains of fish. Officials raise fish like rainbow, brook and brown trout for sport fishing. Wyoming’s hatcheries raise all four strains of cutthroat trout for sport fishing and also to help replenish Wyoming’s native populations, Fowden said.

Wyoming’s hatchery system is the only one in the world to successfully raise golden trout.

And it’s expensive.

The department’s 10 fish hatcheries and rearing stations cost Game and Fish just under $5 million each year, 43 percent of the fisheries budget. Revenues from $24 yearly resident and $14 daily nonresident licenses don’t pay for fish stocking and the rest of the fisheries department.

Fowden lists five reasons for the high cost: Maintaining the brood stocks, fish food, utilities, distribution and personnel. Utilities, for example, have risen 110 percent since 2004. The cost of feed has risen 165 percent.

Keeping breeding fish healthy and disease-free requires constant monitoring.

“We control our fish disease destiny for all waters other than the North Platte River, which headwaters in Colorado,” Fowden said.

A disease in the headwater spreads to the rest of the river. Whirling disease, which makes fish spin in circles until they either starve or are eaten, started in the North Platte out of state most likely from a private fish stocking company, he said.

Nonnative fish like rainbow trout have built sustainable populations in plenty of rivers. Lake populations are a different story. Natural reproduction in Pathfinder, for example, can’t begin to sustain the lake’s trout population.

Trout move up the North Platte River to spawn, but are eaten by walleye when they come back down the river as babies, Fowden said.

To combat predation, officials stock 9-inch trout that have a fighting chance.

“If they stopped stocking, there would be virtually no trout left in Pathfinder,” Fowden said.

Pathfinder angler Randy Bird isn’t worried about the 2014 cuts. The fishery is so strong he thinks it can withstand one year, but he hopes it won’t continue.

He and his family can fish on Pathfinder and catch plenty.

“For me personally, I love trout, and I love that fishery,” he said. “Some lakes you don’t catch but one fish here or there and you get bored. They need to do what they can do to keep the culture program going.”

Pathfinder isn’t the only reservoir facing a future with fewer fish.

Without the department’s stocking program, most of Wyoming’s lakes and reservoirs would lose their trout. Fishing is a $200 million industry in Wyoming with more than half of that money coming from boating anglers. The bulk of the anglers on boats are fishing for trout.

“It would be a $110 million loss to the state to lose the trout reservoir fisheries,” Fowden said.

Reach Open Spaces reporter Christine Peterson at 307-746-3121 or Follow her on Twitter @PetersonOutside.


Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. pappy
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    pappy - March 29, 2013 8:50 am
    Not my fault or GF's you can't catch a fish. The opportunity is there. If you want a full accounting then ask for it. The GF budget is public information and it was discussed at the last commission meeting. A meeting that is open to the public and was web cast to the whole state. What other state agency goes to that effort to keep the public informed. If people don't chose to make the effort to inform themselves then don't blame the agency. I'm sure if you requested the information on whot the fisheries program cost they would provide it to you.
  2. supercalifragilistic
    Report Abuse
    supercalifragilistic - March 28, 2013 9:08 pm
    My comment was intended to bring up costs
    I'd like to see the spread sheet of cost verses production among other issues.
    Now if you know where I can find such information, I'm talking simple english information? I'd appreciate it.

    That would be a start ... I don't believe residents are getting value for fish. I suppose if you're retired and fish all day long ... that value is there. But, those that have other things to do {like work} do not have that luxury.
    I suppose new - regulatory licenses could change that as well. No different or in the same fashion as "fishing without a license". Otherwise, I suppose shouldn't buy another license, until I have plenty of time to catch plenty of fish.
  3. flyfisher11
    Report Abuse
    flyfisher11 - March 28, 2013 8:15 pm
    Supercalifragilistic--I'm not understanding how you spent 46.00 on a 24.00 fishing license. How good a deal is on a fishing license depends on how often you go out. I imagine some folks buy a license and never go fishing. To them your 9 dollars per fish probably seems like a great deal.

    On the other hand, I know of anglers who fish nearly every day. They probably don't pay more than a nickel for every fish caught. My point is that if you don't use it, any amount is too much to pay for a license.

    Of all licenses, fishing is the best deal--and probably ought to cost a whole lot more than it currently does. With one license a guy can get outdoors every day, all year long. There isn't a better deal recreational anywhere. Especially for as good as the fishing is here in Wyoming.

    As far as the G&F not putting forth a "full balance sheet" it simply isn't true. Like any state agency, all their spending is a matter of public record. You just need to ask for it. In fact, unlike many other state agencies, G&F spending is overseen by a commission of 7 citizens. Folks just like you and me. If you don't like how they are spending money, all you need to do is talk to your local G&F commissioner who represents your county. The WGFD can't spend a single penny without the commission's approval.

    The current fiscal mess G&F is in is nothing more than a premeditated decision to make it so--courtesy of our short sighted legislature. If they don't want to raise license fee's that's alright with me, as long as they provide other funding sources so the G&F can do their job. Simply saying no to necessary funding is telling Wyoming's sportsmen and women they can go suck a snowball. Bottom line is no money equals no management, and the legislature knows it.

    When you go out fishing in a couple years and it isn't half as good as it used to be, at least you'll know who to blame.
  4. supercalifragilistic
    Report Abuse
    supercalifragilistic - March 28, 2013 5:25 pm
    pappy, if I may respond to you?
    My license and tag last year cost me grand total of $46.00 USD - I caught a total of 5 fish estimated at 3 lbs total.
    Divide 3 lbs by $46.00 = $15.33 per pound.
    Not sure - are you saying fish should be valued about $49.95 per pound?
    I have yet to see what the costs and where the costs are coming from?
    Was it the Governor's proposed program accepted by Obama for wolf management that has increased the Wyoming Game and Fish Dept. expenses that dramatically?
    Too many unanswered questions and the public is not being told about the origins to the accelerated costs that have the Wyoming Game and Fish scrambling for more money.

    I'm inquisitive as a tired tax payer.
  5. supercalifragilistic
    Report Abuse
    supercalifragilistic - March 28, 2013 4:07 pm
    Personally, I have never seen a "full balance sheet" from the WG&FD
    I'd still like to see their costs ...... as I'm tired of politicians and political organization telling me they need more money. All the while not account for the monies they do spend.
  6. Sassy
    Report Abuse
    Sassy - March 28, 2013 10:25 am
    Enough already this story has been beat to a pulp , we all get it.

    Take this issue to the legislators who killed the bills. They are not speaking for the majority
  7. prog
    Report Abuse
    prog - March 28, 2013 8:53 am
    Rigrat et al: perhaps you guys should target some of your invective toward the actual responsible party and that is the Republican controlled Legislature who refuses to consider alternate funding mechanisms for the WGFD to include dipping into the various so-called "rainy day" billion dollar trust funds! Well, folks, its raining and this irresponsibility will result in a flood of problems for all sportsmen in the future if they continue to neglect these issues.
  8. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - March 28, 2013 8:37 am
    Fisherman in Wyoming enjoy some of the best fishing in the lower 48. You can fish 24/7. Fishermen have never been willing to pay for the cost of their program. The sale of antelope, deer, and now elk licenses have always been raised to cover the cost of the fisheries and other programs? Why should hunters subsidize this program. If fish stocking and pheasant stocking are important to you then step and pay the bill, don't expect someone else to pay it for you. Isn't that the Wyoming way?
  9. average wyomingite
    Report Abuse
    average wyomingite - March 28, 2013 8:30 am
    Or maybe people that fish should pay their own way and pay for what the program costs? Radical thinking.
  10. rigrat
    Report Abuse
    rigrat - March 28, 2013 7:49 am
    G&F cuts back on fish,people will cut back on buying fishing licenses,the cycle will get worse until they squeal for more money.But then,it's away to ensure their goal of pacifying the rich and tourists who spend money.
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