CHEYENNE – Wyoming Game and Fish announced it is temporarily lifting creel and possession limits on game fish at Saratoga Lake, about 80 miles west of Laramie, effectively immediately.
In a press release on June 29, Game and Fish announced the decision to temporarily lift creel and possession limits at the lake is “because of an illegal introduction of yellow perch to the fishery – Game and Fish plans to kill all of the fish in Saratoga Lake using rotenone in September.”
“The chemical treatment is necessary to prevent the spread of yellow perch, as their presence negatively impacts trout fisheries and native fish communities in the North Platte drainage,” Wyoming Game and Fish Public Information Officer Sara DiRienzo explained.
“It’s unfortunate that an illegal introduction of yellow perch necessitates a rotenone treatment,” Wyoming Game and Fish Chief of Fisheries Alan Osterland said. “But, we want the public resource — the fish — to be utilized in the best way possible. By temporarily liberalizing regulations, anglers will be able to harvest and possess high numbers of fish they can eat like yellow perch, walleye and rainbow, brown and tiger trout for the summer months leading up to the chemical treatment.”
Despite limits being uncapped, anglers at Saratoga Lake will still need to possess a valid Wyoming fishing license and comply with all legal angling methods and tackle.
“All kept fish should be cleaned, not wasted,” DiRienzo added.
The unlimited creel and possession limits at Saratoga Lake alone “are a temporary measure granted through an emergency rule signed by (Wyoming Governor Mark) Gordon,” DiRienzo wrote. “Emergency regulations remain in place for 120 days, ending on Oct. 26 – the department may reverse the regulation at any time.”
DiRienzo reminds anglers it is “Illegal to move live fish from one body of water into another in Wyoming – penalties for illegally stocking fish could be up to $10,000.”
The investigation into the illegal stocking at Saratoga Lake is still under investigation and residents are encouraged to contact the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-943-3847 or 307-777-4330.
“A reward is available and your identity will remain confidential,” DiRienzo stated.
In a separate press release, Wyoming Game and Fish said the department “is continuing a project to return sauger to its native waters,” above the Glendo Reservoir.
“(Sauger) fish species were once native to the North Platte River system in eastern Wyoming,” DiRienzo stated. “But they were extirpated sometime in the mid-1940s.”
In 2017, Game and Fish began reintroducing sauger in the North Platte River upstream of Glendo Reservoir and stocked about 950,000 fry and fingerling sauger in this area. “Since then the department has gathered information about sauger migration and movement patterns and a weir in the river near Orin Junction (will show if anything is) preventing migration of sauger and other native fish,” DiRienzo explained.
“We want to know how much of the river is available to them and if doing additional work to provide better fish passage over the weir would be beneficial, or if they are already able to swim over the weir,” Wyoming Casper Region Game and Fish Fisheries Biologist Nick Hogberg said.
“Their ability to pass the weir is dependent on river discharge, so we expect that at some flows it will be easier than others,” Hogberg stated. “As long as there are flows in the spring that allow them to pass the weir, they will probably be able to migrate as far as they want because the next barrier is a lot farther upstream.”
“In addition to bringing back a native species we would like to have back in this system, sauger will provide a component of diversity to the Glendo fishery,” Hogberg said. “They are susceptible to a lot of the same fishing techniques as walleye. We’ve already seen anglers catching them and hope that will continue into the future as they become established and hopefully sustain themselves.”
Additionally, the department placed radio tags in sauger and three other native species in the area, such as channel catfish, shorthead redhorse and quillback.
“Numbered floy tags are inserted into each fish,” DiRienzo said. “Anglers who catch tagged fish are encouraged to release them and asked to contact the phone number on the tag whether they release or harvest tagged fish.”
Hogberg said there are plans to tag several more of each species next spring.
Lastly, Game and Fish reminds pet owners “to never release a pet into any of Wyoming’s ponds, rivers or natural places.”
“Some people believe that when they don’t want their pets any longer it is okay to release them into the wild,” DiRienzo wrote. “However, this is cruel to pets, dangerous to the ecosystem and illegal.”
“Pets can become an invasive species problem when owners let them lose,” Wyoming Game and Fish Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Josh Leonard said. “From tropical fish to snakes to turtles – do not release your pets.”
“When pets get too large or difficult to keep, some people think letting them loose is the kind thing to do,” DiRienzo explained. “That’s not the case – most pets will starve or freeze to death and those that survive can cause significant impacts. Because an illegal introduction can have disastrous impacts to a fishery or even an entire ecosystem, the crime carries some of the highest penalties that exist for wildlife violations.”
“Releasing a pet as small as a goldfish can have devastating effects on native wildlife,” Leonard added. “They can reproduce quickly, disrupting the ecosystem. They may compete with native fish for habitat and spread diseases.”
Game and Fish recommends pet owners seeking to relinquish their pets to do one of the following: contact the place where the pet was purchased to see if the company will take the pet back; contact other places that will take the pet in, such as pet stores, animal shelters, zoos, aquariums, science centers, friends, family and/or humane societies; or euthanize the pet humanely.