Almost every trout in Goldeneye Reservoir died this winter. Water levels at the start of winter were low. Thick ice with snow cover prevented plants from producing oxygen, which killed 95 percent of the brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout, said Al Conder, Casper area fisheries supervisor for the department.
It’s not the first time. Most of the fish died in the small, Casper-area reservoir between 2006 and 2007, but numbers quickly rebounded when the reservoir refilled and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department stocked thousands of baby trout.
This year, because of budget cuts, Game and Fish doesn’t have more fish to stock, which means anglers may not find anything but suckers out there this summer, Conder said.
Game and Fish cut 25 percent of the fish it normally stocks from more than 100 Wyoming waters this year when the Wyoming State Legislature denied a 2013 license fee increase. Those cuts are finally starting to hit Wyoming’s waters.
In the Lander region, no fish will be stocked in the Little Popo Agie River, the Wind River below Boysen Reservoir, Sweetwater River near the Shoshone National Forest and Jenson and Carr reservoirs. Each of those typically receives between 500 and 2,500 trout between 8 to 10 inches long. Brooks, Torrey and Trail lakes near Dubois will all see fewer fish, said Kevin Johnson, fisheries supervisor in the Lander region.
Torrey and Trail lakes and the Wind River cuts might not be noticeable this fall, but a few of the others will be, he said.
Fisheries supervisors are trying to see if there is a way to ease the impact of some of the cuts, Conder said.
“If we did find something to do, it would be robbing Peter to pay Paul to start rebuilding the fishery,” Conder said. “For right now, it’s broke, and I’m not exactly sure what the fix will look like.”
But this summer's fishing forecast isn’t all grim. Anglers should have success on plenty of the larger Cowboy State rivers, lakes and streams, or those with strong natural reproduction. The Star-Tribune caught up with most of Game and Fish’s regional fisheries biologists for a breakdown of the good and the bad for the upcoming fishing season.
- Casper region: Expect phenomenal fishing on the Gray Reef section of the North Platte River. Biologists recorded high numbers of smaller fish two years, ago, which should translate into large numbers of big fish this season, Conder said. That section of river now boasts close to 9,000 fish per mile. Alcova and Glendo reservoirs should offer good walleye fishing. Anglers can keep up to 12 walleye in Alcova. Seminoe and Pathfinder reservoirs should also all have good walleye and trout fishing.
- Green River region: Flaming Gorge Reservoir should offer excellent rainbow trout fishing this year. Lake trout numbers, both large and small, are also good in the reservoir. Kokanee numbers are looking better than predicted, said Rob Keith, Green River region fisheries supervisor. Viva Naughton and Fontenelle reservoirs should also fish well this year. Fishing will be tougher on the Green River below Fontenelle with flows up to its banks through July because of high run off. The river typically runs about 1,100 cubic feet per second, and will be up to 8,000 cfs for June and part of July.
- Sheridan region: Tiger muskie stocked in 2012 in Healy and LAK reservoirs are close to or above 30 inches, said Andrew Nikirk, fisheries biologist with the Sheridan region. They were stocked as 6- to 8-inch fish in October 2012. “That’s phenomenal growth,” he said. Northern pike in Keyhole Reservoir are also growing fast. Anglers can only keep pike or tiger muskie measuring more than 30 inches long. Expect the heyday of walleye fishing on Keyhole with plenty of big fish. High mountain lakes in the Big Horn Mountains should fish well. Elephant Head and Myrtle lakes have golden trout, many averaging about 14 inches long.
- Jackson region: The Snake, Hoback and Grays rivers should all fish well this season, but don’t expect much to happen until well into July, said Diana Miller, fisheries biologist with the Jackson office. Fish numbers in the three rivers increased in 2011, and numbers and size should be good now.
- Lander region: Expect good rainbow trout fishing in Pilot Butte Reservoir. Boysen Reservoir should be similar to 2013, with decent walleye numbers, and a possible increase in perch and trout, said Kevin Johnson, fisheries supervisor in the Lander region. Anglers also need to remember they are only allowed to keep six walleye and two sauger in Boysen.
- Laramie region: The Laramie Plains Lakes are all doing well headed into the spring and summer seasons, said Mike Snigg, Laramie region fisheries supervisor. Fish survived in Meabor and Gelatt reservoirs, which typically winter kill. High run off should help fill Wheatland No. 3 and Gray Rocks reservoirs.