Feb 25, 2016

East Newton Lake may become 'catch and release' only

The only prize East Newton Lake anglers may be taking home are bragging rights.

The only notable proposed modification to local 2017-18 Wyoming fishing regulations was revising East Newton Lake north of Cody catch and release only.

At this time, one fish can be kept per day at East Newton.

In 1999, some trout were close to 26 inches long, but the average was 20 inches, said Jason Burckhardt, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Cody region fisheries biologist. Burckhardt spoke at a public meeting Feb. 16, discussing new fishing regulations and fishing developments to a dozen members of the public.

By 2003, some trout were greater than 24 inches long in East Newton. In 2012, the average was 17 inches.

Game and Fish is not sure why the fish are smaller but, they are noting younger fish not surviving to age 7 or 8. In July and August, the water warms up, Burckhardt said. At 50 degrees, hook mortality is 5 to 10 percent.

The August water temperature never drops below 65 degrees, said Sam Hochhalter, Game and Fish Cody region fisheries supervisor.

Game and Fish is looking at the statewide July/August water warming trend and how to mitigate it, Burckhardt said.

Although it was an informal meeting with Game and Fish seeking only feedback, the group suggested closing East Newton to fishing in July and August to protect trout.

Each year, 500 Eagle Lake rainbows are stocked in East Newton. Then on every odd year, 500 brook trout are stocked in the lake and 250 browns on every even year, Burckhardt said.

NEWTON PROGENY
East Newton is also a backup brood source for Eagle Lake rainbows, Burckhardt said.

In 2008, Game and Fish sacrificed 30 female and 30 male Eagle Lake rainbows to test for disease to prevent diseases from infecting hatcheries or waters where fish are stocked. Game and Fish always tests for disease when they collect eggs and milk for hatcheries.

BLUE RIBBON FORK
The North Fork of the Shoshone River, west of Cody, offers 700 trout per mile or greater than 600 pounds of trout per mile, Burckhardt said.

The trout sample area is near Mummy Cave, running downstream to Elk Fork.

The above count makes the North Fork a blue ribbon trout stream. Downstream is a deeper blue.
The 2014 count was 2,500 trout per mile from the Buffalo Bill Dam downstream to Corbett Bridge.

DEATH BY SULFUR
There is a lot of geothermal activity beneath the Shoshone River. Hydrogen sulfide near the dam downstream past DeMaris Springs can be fatal to fish. From DeMaris downstream 2 miles there are no trout.

"Largely, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it,”  Burckhardt said.

In 2014, about 100 dead fish where found in the Shoshone River Canyon just west of Cody. Although it wasn’t verified it was assumed a hydrogen sulfide plume killed the fish, Burckhardt said.

Greater outflow from the dam dilutes the sulfide, Burckhardt said. A winter agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation who controls the dam’s output, allows up to 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) release during the winter, but that volume is dependent on how much of the states’ percentage of water is stored and the amount of water remaining in the reservoir following the water year (October to September).

This winter, the reservoir is releasing 200 cfs from the reservoir and the river is picking up another 50-60 cfs from springs along the canyon and downstream past DeMaris, Burckhardt said.

SOUTH FORK RECUPERATES
In 2006, the South Fork of the Shoshone River hosted more than 750 trout per mile. However, a 2007 thunderstorm dumped tons of mud into the South Fork of the Shoshone River and by the following year, that number was 130, Burckhardt said.

Now it is nearly 560 trout per mile. The fishing is good, but access is limited.

“This is certainly a quality fishery that is under-utilized,” Burckhardt said.

CLARKS FORK SPARSE
The Clarks Fork River Canyon trout population is a concern, Burckhardt said. “Clarks Fork doesn’t have a robust population.”

In 1998, there were around 600 fish or 260 pounds per mile. In 2015, it was around 420 fish or 320 pounds per mile, Burckhardt said.

White fish were abundant in the Clarks Fork, but he said he did not believe they effected trout biomass, Burckhardt said.

LUCE/HOGAN UPS & DOWNS
Luce Reservoir off Road 7RP south of Clark, is managed as a trophy fishery — catch and release only and with limited stocking. It is also backup brood stock for Fall rainbow, Burckhardt said. About 35 Fall rainbow are stocked per surface-acre annually.

Many trout don’t survive the winter in the 30-foot deep reservoir. Game and Fish is not exactly sure what is causing the loss, but they are trying to determine why. This year, the department plans to stock Firehole rainbows to see which rainbow species fare better, Burckhardt said.

Hogan Reservoir, also off Road 7RP south of Clark, was treated in 2006 to kill the suckers and chub. Now, between 1,000 to 3,400 Yellowstone cutthroats are stocked annually, Burckhardt said.

“There are six-pound cutthroat trout in Hogan,” Hochhalter said.

ON THE SUNNY SIDE
Upper Sunshine Reservoir, south of Meeteetse, is stocked with an average of 60,000 Yellowstone cutthroats per year, Burckhardt said.

Lower Sunshine receives 11,000 splake (brook and lake trout cross), 10,000 tiger (brown and brook trout cross) and 30,000 Yellowstone cutthroats, Burckhardt said.

NORTH FORK BOATING
Game and Fish in partnership with Cody Wild River Fest is discussing a boat ramp on the North Fork with the U.S. Forest Service, but talks are in the preliminary stages at this point, Burckhardt said.

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