Jun 12, 2015

Sucker-eating tiger trout brought to Lower Sunshine Reservoir

Anglers will soon be able to hook a new kind of fish in the Lower Sunshine Reservoir.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently stocked 10,000 tiger trout in the reservoir, which is southwest of Meeteetse. The department hopes the tigers — which are the sterile offspring of brook and brown trout — will not only be a unique catch for fishermen, but also chow down on the sucker fish now crowding the Lower Sunshine Reservoir.

Ten Sleep Fish Hatchery Superintendent Bart Burningham stocks tiger trout in Lower Sunshine Reservoir this week. Photo courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish
The tiger trout measured only about five-and-a half inches when placed in the reservoir this week, but the department said they should be of catchable size in a few months.

The fish were hatched and reared at the Ten Sleep Fish Hatchery and then hauled across the basin to the Lower Sunshine by hatchery superintendent Bart Burningham. It's the first time that tiger trout have been stocked in the Big Horn Basin.

“We are excited about the unique sport fishing opportunity this will provide for local anglers,” Burningham said in a Friday news release from the department.

The Uppper and Lower Sunshine reservoirs are primarily stocked with Yellowstone cutthroat trout. That's because the Greybull River drainage holds an important population of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout and the department doesn't want to impact the native population in the event that fish make it out of the reservoir and into the river, explained Cody Region Fisheries Biologist Jason Burckhardt.

For years, the Game and Fish Department has also stocked the Lower Sunshine splake — a hybrid brook/lake trout — to provide some different fishing opportunities and so they can feed on the large number of suckers.

“They have performed well for anglers but have not had a significant impact on the sucker population,” Burckhardt said.

The hope is that tiger trout can succeed in controlling the suckers where the splake have not. 

In a 2013 sampling of Lower Sunshine, some 83 percent of the captured fish were suckers and there were very few Yellowstone cutthroats.

“The abundance of suckers is negatively affecting the survival and growth of Yellowstone cutthroats in the reservoir,” Burckhardt said.

The hope is that tiger trout can succeed in controlling the suckers where the splake have not.

“Tiger trout have been tried in other waters around the state and have performed well. They grow quickly and appear to be good predators on suckers,” Burckhardt said.

Lower Sunshine is managed as a “yield” fishery, meaning fish are stocked at a small size but grow to catchable size within a year. Both the Lower and Upper Sunshine Reservoirs are managed under general statewide regulations for standing waters: a six-fish limit with no special restrictions on tackle or length.

“The Sunshine Reservoirs are a great place to catch and harvest a limit of fish if an angler chooses to do so,” Burckhardt said.

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