WGFD seeks reports of Burbot
Gordon Edwards holding a Burbot from Torrey Lake. Photo courtesy Wyoming Game & Fish.
by Wyoming Game and Fish Department
December 21, 2010
With many of the lakes in the Pinedale Region soon becoming capped with ice, the start of the annual ice fishing season is right around the corner. As anglers begin to gather around their favorite waters, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department would like to remind local anglers to be on the lookout for burbot or ling.
"Every year we seem to get one or two unconfirmed reports of an angler catching a burbot in or near one of the "Finger Lakes" in the Pinedale area, " says Darren Rhea, Pinedale Fisheries Biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "However, these are often second- or third-hand reports that go unverified. We just want to remind people to report any burbot catches in the Upper Green River drainage to the Game and Fish Department as we have yet to confirm them in many locations."
Burbot, also known as "ling" or "ling-cod" are a species of fish native to portions of Wyoming east of the Continental Divide, particularly the Wind-Bighorn river drainages. However, burbot were illegally introduced into the Green River drainage and the effects have been devastating.
Adult burbot are a predatory fish and rely almost exclusively on other fish for their diet. Since their illegal introduction, burbot have become established in the Green River including Flaming Gorge and Fontenelle reservoirs. They were also introduced into Big Sandy Reservoir and have become established in the Big Sandy River. Because of their voracious predatory behavior, burbot have already begun to take a toll on some the prized sport fisheries in the Green River and in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, as well as endemic native fishes in the Big Sandy River.
Burbot have already been collected in portions of the Green and New Fork rivers above Fontenelle Reservoir. However, to date, no burbot have been collected in any of the Finger Lakes near Pinedale. "We have ramped up our monitoring efforts in these lakes to hopefully detect any burbot establishment in these important sport fisheries," says Rhea. "However, we rely heavily on reports from anglers to help fill in any gaps."
Burbot are almost unmistakable among fish species in the area. They have a long, slender body with fused fins that closely resembles that of an eel, and a single barbell or "whisker" under their chin. There is currently no limit on the number of burbot an angler may harvest in the Green River drainage, and anglers are encouraged to keep any and all burbot that they catch.
Research is currently being conducted at Colorado State University to evaluate methods to contain burbot and potentially keep them out of certain areas. "We are hopeful this research will help us develop methods to permanently keep these voracious predators out of our
renowned sport fisheries and native fish strongholds," says Rhea. "In the meantime, we are keeping a very close eye on burbot in the area."
Rhea stresses that it is important for anglers to learn from the burbot introductions that have taken place in the Green River drainage as a lesson in how not to treat a resource. "The selfish act of one or two bad apples has had cascading effects throughout the ecosystem and threatens the delicate balance that once existed. Illegal introductions are usually irreversible and can have devastating environmental and economic consequences."
New laws passed in Wyoming look to further discourage the practice of illegally introducing fish. In addition to fines of up to $10,000, anyone convicted of intentionally introducing fish in Wyoming could be hit with countless restitution costs as well as a lifetime loss of hunting and fishing privileges.
Anglers are strongly encouraged to provide any information regarding catches of burbot to the Pinedale office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department office at 1-800-452-9107 or 307-367-4353.