More Burbot found in Flaming Gorge Reservoir
by Wyoming Game & Fish Department
November 24, 2006
(Green River) Much to the dismay of Wyoming Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists, 82 burbot - a predatory fish not native to the Green River drainage - were recently netted in Flaming Gorge Reservoir during a November 7-8 operation to sample fish populations.
Game and Fish biologists set three trammel nets for two nights and caught the burbot, also known as ling or cod, ranging in length from 10.5 inches to 23.7 inches. The nets were set just above the confluence on down to the pipeline.
Since 1991, in addition to burbot in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, other illegal fish introductions have occurred in the Green River drainage. Those include smallmouth bass and walleye in Sulphur Creek Reservoir, rainbow trout in Salt Creek and burbot and white suckers in Big Sandy Reservoir.
Green River Fisheries Supervisor Robb Keith has spent a great deal of his time dealing with the repercussions of illegal fish stocking. "The discovery of these illegally stocked fish is a serious blow to the quality fisheries the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is working hard to maintain for all anglers, not for the few selfish individuals who want their favorite fish everywhere they wish," Keith said.
Biologists predicted in 2005 that the burbot would move upstream and establish populations in the upper Green River and they were right. Pinedale fisheries biologists recently found burbot in the New Fork River near Pinedale. So far, that is the only discovery of burbot in the upper Green River, but the species is likely established in some of the Finger Lakes. The Pinedale crew plans to do more intensive sampling in the future.
Green River Fisheries Biologist Craig Amadio says burbot are very aggressive predators and will feed on juvenile trout and non-game fish, along with invertebrates and crayfish. "They compete with adult trout for food and habitat, and negatively impact native fish populations," Amadio says. "We did net a number of burbot in Flaming Gorge this spring and most had crayfish in their stomachs. We are concerned that the burbot will feed heavily on crayfish and negatively impact other species, like brown trout and smallmouth bass, which rely on crayfish as well."
Keith and Amadio know burbot are too widely spread throughout the Green River drainage to do anything other than setting liberal regulations and population monitoring.
This year the limit for burbot and walleye was increased to 25 fish per day in the Green River and Bear River drainages and any burbot or walleye caught cannot be released. The liberal regulations are intended to encourage anglers to harvest as many as legally possible and help suppress these non-native fish populations.
Anyone with information about illegal fish stocking, or any other wildlife violation, should call their local game warden or the Stop Poaching Hotline at (800) 842-4331.