Soda Lake Fishing Forecast for 2006
Pinedale Fish Biologist Pete Cavalli holds one of the trophy brown trout that draws anglers to Soda Lake. Photo courtesy Wyoming Game & Fish Department.
Expect conditions similar to last year
by Wyoming Game & Fish
May 3, 2006
(Pinedale) Anglers anticipating the opening of the fishing season at Soda Lake should prepare for conditions similar to what they experienced in 2005. Unfortunately, that means catch rates will probably be lower than what many people have come to expect from this outstanding fishery. However, persistent anglers could be rewarded with a catch they won't soon forget.
More than half of the brown trout that were harvested by anglers on opening day in 2005 were longer than 20 inches. One lucky angler harvested a 9.7-pound brown trout that day, and reports of other fish in the 10-pound range were also received during the month of May. Sampling in the fall showed that the average brook trout was 13.6 inches long, and the average brown trout was 20.4 inches long; brown trout over 24 inches long were relatively common. Anglers are advised to measure each fish they plan to harvest in 2006, because the possession limit allows for only one trout longer than 20 inches. Several anglers received citations in 2005 for keeping too many of these big fish.
Population estimates calculated in October 2005 showed that approximately 1340 brown trout and 390 brook trout survived through the angling season. These estimates include only fish longer than 6 inches because smaller trout are too difficult to capture. The estimates made in 2005 are almost identical to those made in October 2004, and both estimates are far below the average for Soda Lake.
Unfortunately, there are even fewer fish in the lake now, as the lake experienced a partial winterkill this winter. This has been the case for the past several years. However, some fish did survive the winter, so anglers will have a few fish to try to catch.
There are probably several factors that have led to the reduction in trout numbers, including low dissolved oxygen concentrations in the winter, warm summer temperatures, and a bacterial disease. Many of the problems are results of the long-term drought that hit Wyoming. Readers interested in learning more about how the drought affected Soda Lake and its trout populations can find additional information in Volume 1, Issue 2 of the Pinedale Region's Angler Newsletter. This document is available on the Internet at the following address:
All of the trout living in Soda Lake are the result of a stocking program. Suitable spawning habitat for trout does not exist at this lake, so the Wyoming Game & Fish Department stocks fingerlings (fish about 3 to 4 inches long) annually. Survival of these young fish has been poor in recent years, due to poor habitat conditions, so the number of fish stocked and timing of stocking have been altered in an effort to increase survival. Unfortunately, these changes do not appear to be making much of an impact. The lake will be stocked again in 2006, but survival will probably remain low until the water level increases significantly. Therefore, anglers will need a little patience if they hope to catch one of the remaining trophy trout from Soda Lake in the next few years.
For more information about Soda Lake, contact Pinedale Fish Biologist Pete Cavalli, at 307-367-4353.
Wyoming Game & Fish Department