The lure of Trout
FLAMING GORGE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA - If visions of trophy trout cloud your angling dreams and requests from family and friends for fish meat border on threats, it is probably time to head to Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
Few other Utah destinations offer anglers a chance to haul in a fish weighing more than 40 pounds and make it so easy to feed those frenzied demands with tasty trout at the same time.
Lunker lake trout at the Gorge are sure to at least look at your lure and juvenile lakers (those in the 2- to 15-pound range) are quite accommodating to anglers with family members warming up the grill.
Roger Schneidervin, leader of the Flaming Gorge/Green River Project for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), encourages trout anglers to keep those juvenile lakers.
"Those fish make up a high percentage of the lake trout population. There are still trophy lake trout, but there just isn't the forage base to keep growing 30- or 40-pound fish. The numbers just don't add up," he said. "If we take some of those smaller fish out, it will leave more food for the others to reach those trophy sizes."
Rumors that lake trout are not as tasty as their rainbow brethren are wrong.
"I have cooked up lake trout and kokanee [salmon] on the same grill and people have not been able to tell them apart," Schneidervin said. "That's the ultimate compliment for trout."
Trout is what's for dinner when most Utah anglers head out for a day on the water to bring home supper. And rainbow trout is typically what they bring home.
"Trout have always been the centerpiece of fishing in Utah," said Byron Gunderson, co-owner of Fish Tech Outfitters in Salt Lake City. "Utah is first and foremost considered cold water fish country."
State wildlife officials will plant more than 7.4 million trout in Utah fisheries in 2005. Fingerling fish - those 2 to 4 inches long - make up the majority at 3.3 million. More than 1.3 million each of catchable trout - roughly 7 3/4 to 11 1/2 inches - and subcatchable fish - 6 to 7 3/4 inches - will be stocked.
Rainbow trout make up more than half the fish scheduled for planting - 3.8 million, followed by cutthroat trout at 2.3 million.
Included in the numbers are brook (208,000) and brown (189,00) trout, as well as kokanee salmon (320,000), grayling (47,000), splake (139,000) and tiger trout (334,000).
Even anglers who like to eat trout debate which species is best on a fork.
"We hear comments from anglers that brook trout or cutthroat trout or brown trout is their favorite fish to catch and eat, but it all depends on your taste," said Tom Pettengill, sport fishing director for the DWR. "Overall, most anglers are interested in rainbows."
That does not astonish fishing stores, which focus their wares on trout anglers, but what does surprise them is the high number of people catching fish and releasing them.
According to a statewide angler survey in 2000, about 75 percent of all fish landed in Utah are released to, hopefully, fight again.
"It is kind of surprising," Pettengill said. "The best answer I have is that we have become an urbanized society and there is a big separation between recreational fishing and fishing for food. People from urban areas may not want the mess of bringing fish home and cleaning them."
Gunderson agrees attitudes about catching fish for food have changed in the past couple of decades.
"The idea to go out fishing and bring some home for the table is fading," he said. "There are still some who have the idea of bringing home their limit each trip, but the idea of killing fish for food is not as acceptable as it once was."
Utah fishing licences
Residents 14 and older are required to buy a fishing license ($26 for an annual license, $21 for 65 and older). One-day ($8) and seven-day ($16) permits are also available.
Nonresident annual licenses for anglers 14 and older cost $70. A one-day is $12 and a 7-day is $32. A second pole permit, which allows anglers to use two rods at select waters, is available for $15.
Reciprocal stamps to fish the out-of-state stretches of Flaming Gorge Reservoir ($10) and Lake Powell ($8) are available. A resident with a valid Utah license can legally fish the Idaho side of Bear Lake.
Always check the current Utah Fishing Regulations and Information proclamation before wetting a line.
Free Fishing Day is June 11. A license is not
required that day, but all fishing rules and regulations will be enforced.