New fishing regulations in effect beginning January 1
by Wyoming Game & Fish
January 3, 2012
Several significant improvements to statewide fishing limits greet anglers for 2012-2013, including separate trout limits for reservoirs/lakes and streams, no brook trout length restrictions, and reducing the whitefish limit.
"These were changes we think benefit Wyoming anglers," said Dirk Miller, fisheries management coordinator. "When we proposed these changes last spring at public meetings, they were well received."
Starting Jan. 1, the long-time Wyoming restriction of only keeping one trout over 20 inches will be history on Equality State lakes and reservoirs. Now, if anglers are really getting into a lot of fish 20 inches and over – like can happen on Wheatland No. 3, Pathfinder, and Boysen Reservoirs – all six of the fish kept can be over 20 inches.
"Most reservoirs host stocked trout – which are put in for anglers to catch, so it made sense to let anglers decide what size they want to keep," Miller said. "With the higher water levels the last couple years, growth rates have increased significantly and there are just more 20-inch-plus trout out there."
Anglers looking to keep fish on streams and rivers now have the limit of three fish per day and only one can exceed 16 inches. In drainages 1 (Snake River), 2 (Wind/Big Horn), and 4 (Green and Bear) of western Wyoming, there is also the stipulation that no more than one of those fish can be a cutthroat over 12 inches.
"Streams and rivers are a significantly different trout habitat than lakes and we manage them differently," Miller said. "Trout don’t grow as fast and most stream populations are wild fish that rely on natural reproduction, so it makes sense to have more conservative limits."
Anglers are alerted that, as in past regulations, there are several exceptions to the statewide limits on specific waters. Those exceptions are listed under the specific drainage areas on pages 23-33 in the new regulations.
Brook trout, the prolific import from the Upper Midwest and New England, now have a simple 16 fish daily limit – with no size restrictions whatsoever – in Wyoming.
"Brookies reproduce so well and generally grow so fast, we just didn’t think size restrictions were needed on most waters," Miller said. "And in most cases the populations would benefit from the additional harvest."
Some brook trout exceptions exist, he adds, such as the heavily fished Pole Mountain area between Cheyenne and Laramie.
In addition to brook trout being separate from the general statewide limit, starting in 2012 lake trout or mackinaw, also have a separate limit of six with only one exceeding 24 inches.
"We had made specific water exceptions for most lake trout waters over the years, so establishing this statewide limit will actually help clean up the regulations a little," he added.
Whitefish seem to be on the decline all across the West, including in Wyoming. So the Game and Fish is reducing the limit on that native species to six per day.
There are also changes and clarification for live baitfish or minnows. As of Jan. 1, only fathead minnows can be commercially raised for baitfish in the Cowboy State. Commercially produced live batfish may be used in all waters east of the Continental Divide where minnows are allowed.
The areas in which wild-caught live baitfish can be possessed are also clarified. These wild-caught live baitfish possession areas explain where baitfish captured by seines or traps can be transported, stored, and used and are specific to the particular area where the baitfish are collected. Wild-caught live baitfish may not be taken out of the possession area where they were collected.
Fishing regulations are reviewed every two years with changes occurring at the start of even number years. It is always a good idea to check the regulations prior to fishing, but it is particularly important to check for any changes at the beginning of an even numbered year. Any changes in the regulations are in blue type in the new regulations. Please pick one up at your nearest Game and Fish office, license agent, or online at http://gf.state.wy.us. Anglers are also reminded to purchase a 2012 fishing license before heading out on the first fishing trip of the new year.